Arson and accidents stretch fire services

By John Weekes, Mahvash Ali

Firefighters struggle to keep up with string of blazes around the country.

Firefighters attack a scrub fire which threatened homes on Waiheke Island. Photo / Roger Whitehead
Firefighters attack a scrub fire which threatened homes on Waiheke Island. Photo / Roger Whitehead

Fires raged up and down the country yesterday stretching emergency services to "maximum capacity".

A scrub fire on Waiheke Island came within 50m of homes in Ostend and destroyed around 10ha of bushland.

Midway Motel manager Murray Furness said the blaze spread across the ridge between Erua Rd and Stonyridge Vineyard, where around 100 guests were attending a wedding.

The flames were visible from Auckland.

3News reported the fires were started by a resident burning rubbish on scrubland.

The fire was brought under control about 7pm.

In Canterbury, a grass fire fanned by strong winds and scorching temperatures spread to a piggery on prison land.

Eight water tankers and three helicopters were helping several dozen firefighters battle the blaze into the evening.

The fire came dangerously close to the West Melton aerodrome where 50,000 litres of fuel was stored. Residents of Christchurch reported burning smells. Police were also last night investigating several suspected arson attacks.

One person was treated for smoke inhalation after a villa in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby was lit in a suspected arson.

Neighbour Neville Pasese raised the alarm and tried to douse the flames after at least two fires were lit at the property in Kelmarna Ave.

"I just saw smoke from my house, so I went to help," said Pasese. "First, we tried the water hose, but there was no pressure, so I just started using buckets of water from the swimming pool," he said.

The couple who lived at the address were quite upset.

"The guy thanked me, and the lady was just in tears," he said.

And three boys aged between 11 and 14 have been referred to Youth Aid after a large tree was deliberately set on fire in Invercargill.

Emergency services were called to the fire at the Elles Rd skate park about 8.30pm on Friday, and the blaze was extinguished a short time later.

Even the Australian bushfires left their mark - the blaze left a hazy orange tinge in the skies over the North Island throughout the day.

- Herald on Sunday

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