One of the biggest fires a veteran Hawke's Bay firefighter has ever seen on Te Mata Peak has prompted a call for security on the mountaintop during fireworks season.
Crews were stretched to the limit as the huge fire, that stretched 100m by 200m at its biggest point, swept across the western end of the Peak.
The fire was one of five across Hawke's Bay on Thursday night and early Friday morning, as the region woke to smouldering and scarred landscapes.
Many of the fires, which included a Flaxmere house fire, a driftwood fire, a large vegetation fire in Maraekakaho and a tree fire in Taradale, were thought to have been caused by fireworks, though investigators could not confirm the cause of any of them on Friday.
Hawke's Bay fire area commander Ken Cooper said the risk of the fire spreading on Te Mata Peak, due to the dry conditions, made it one of the most significant fires he has attended.
The 8.13pm fire spread across the upper and lower summit on the western side of the peak but was brought under control at 10.15pm.
Several cars were at the top car park when the for started and were only escorted down from the Peak by police once it was safe to do so.
"We kept an appliance on scene overnight, just in case, but the fire was extinguished," Cooper said.
"We have a fire investigator now trying to establish the cause, but we suspect it was fireworks."
He said fire and emergency service resources were "stretched".
"Multiple fires around the same time put extra pressure on the volunteers.
"Because of the dry conditions, there is an increased risk of fires spreading and the public needs to vigilant and report any vegetation fire they see," Cooper said.
Te Mata Peak has a history of November fires, many of them caused by fireworks. There were three in a week in 2018.
CALL FOR SECURITY DURING FIREWORKS SEASON
Te Mata Park Trust manager Emma Buttle said it was "very concerning" to see a fire of that magnitude.
"It was distressing ... but also a relief to see the fire crews get it under control so quickly. We are very grateful.
"I was on the scene myself, and saw how quickly they worked," she said.
Buttle said while she was unaware of the cause she suspected fireworks or cigarette butts.
"Fireworks are strictly prohibited in the Park. But in the past, we have had fires caused by both fireworks and cigarette butts discarded out of car windows," Buttle said.
Hastings District councillor Damon Harvey said he felt more could be done to stop people from lighting fireworks on the peak.
"Perhaps during fireworks season there needs to be security up there to deter fireworks."
Hastings District Council spokesman Craig Thew said any changes would require further consultation with the community.
"Council asks the community to use their common sense wherever they choose to let off fireworks."
'WE HEARD POPPING AND CRACKING'
Jack Thomson was going for a walk up the Peak with a friend when they noticed the fire.
"We heard a few popping and crackling noises, but we thought it was just a couple of kids mucking around with fireworks," Thompson said.
"It wasn't till we got to the top of the hill that we saw the fire and it wasn't small at all. It was just taking off."
He said they managed to talk to some of the people there watching who had already called firefighters.
"We went for a little walk closer to it to get a couple of better photos and video and we hung around for about an hour and the whole time it was a strong blaze, it wasn't till we left that the firefighters seemed to have some control over it."
A RAFT OF FIRES
Ten fire trucks in total attended in fire, but two were then released to put out another vegetation fire on Kereru Rd, Maraekakaho.
A fire and emergency services spokesman said the Kereru Rd fire was reported at 8.51pm on Thursday.
"A member of the public called to let us know about flames and smoke.
"Trees and grass were on fire and multiple crews including two fire trucks, and a rural crew from Maraekakaho attended the incident."
The fire was extinguished at 10pm, but the cause of the fire remains unknown.
Fire and emergency services were also called to another fire across town in Lee Rd, Taradale about 9.11pm.
The spokesman said it was a tree on fire and the Taradale fire brigade believe fireworks were the cause.
Two appliances brought it under control.
Nearly two hours following the Te Mata Peak fire another fire was reported on State Highway 51, behind Hohepa Homes.
"There was a big pile of driftwood on fire and crews from Hastings, Napier, Haumoana, plus a water tanker attended."
The fire took 40 minutes to extinguish and the cause is believed to be fireworks, although it has not been determined.
On Friday morning fire gutted a house in Flaxmere.
The Margate Ave house, which went up in furious flames about 2.45am on Friday, was unoccupied at the time, a fire communications spokesperson said.
Three fire trucks, from Hastings and Napier stations, as well as support units fought the blaze until it was put out about 4am.
Police and fire investigators are trying to determine the cause.