Far North fire boss says ban breachers should be charged with arson

By Kristin Edge -
1 comment
A helicopter fights a fire at Matai Bay, in the Far North, this week, one of many that has triggered a warning that those starting fires will be billed for the costs and possibly prosecuted.
A helicopter fights a fire at Matai Bay, in the Far North, this week, one of many that has triggered a warning that those starting fires will be billed for the costs and possibly prosecuted.

People who deliberately breach a fire ban in the Far North can expect to be charged with arson and get a bill for the cost of extinguishing the blaze, a senior rural fire boss says.

A prohibited fire season was announced for the Far North yesterday as ground conditions dried out and elevated the fire risk. It means no fires can be lit.

Northern principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said rural firefighters had been working since Boxing Day on fires, many of which had started with non-permitted fires.

But, where possible, the fire authority would now recover costs from those responsible and, in serious cases, the fire-starters would be prosecuted.

There was a precedent set in Northland last year when the person who started a major fire at Coopers Beach last New Year's Eve by firing a flare into a nature reserve was convicted of arson.

"People are lighting stupid fires in windy and dry conditions. They just aren't paying attention to the conditions. If people show blatant stupidity we will do them for arson under the Crimes Act," Mr Myles said.

"There will now be no open fires at all. It's unsafe to do so and we are not expecting rain for a number of weeks so fire conditions are only going to get worse."

If smoke was spotted, a helicopter would immediately be deployed and the cost would be paid by those responsible for the fire.

On Wednesday, rural crews were involved in extinguishing five different fire sites at Towai, Parua Bay, Taupo Bay, Oruru and Whangaruru.

And crews remained at Maitai Bay where they were ensuring there were not more flare-ups.

Fireworks are suspected of igniting the fire that started on New Year's Eve.

The fires were spread across rural locations and had stretched resources.

Mr Myles worried if there was another major incident whether he would have enough firefighters to deal with it.

"We are running out of resources and some of these guys need a break.

"If we had a major fire we would probably struggle to get enough crew and that's when houses and people's lives are put at risk."

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