People gathering around a flaming power box in residential Tauranga were putting their own lives at risk, say responding firefighters.

Tauranga firefighters were called to the Otumoetai fire at 5.50pm yesterday to find a small power box ''well ablaze and arcing'', brigade senior station officer Mania Durham said.

''It was well alight, you could hear the banging going on.''

Mr Durham said the flames and sparks from the fire attracted a large cluster of people who had gathered around it, some with phones.


''I don't know if they throught it was a show. We had to tell people to move away. Power can go through the ground and it can get quite dangerous,'' he said.

''People just seemed to want to get up close and have a good look.

''But even us, we don't send out guys in too close.''

Arcing is when electrical wire are heating up or they start to break and lose conductivity, so they start arching in power strikes looking for somewhere to go, he said.

Mr Durham described yesterday's arcing as ''like small lightening strikes''.

Firefighters waited for power authorities to make the area safe and used dry powder to put the fire out.

Mr Durham said if anyone found a power box on fire to call 111 and steer well clear from it until authorities can deal with it.