A family at a Northland campground were forced to leave after a grass fire, believed to have started from fireworks, threatened their tent and a house minutes into the New Year.
The incident prompted Fire and Emergency to warn Northlanders of the fire risk in tinder-dry conditions and, unlike in previous years, the organisation is seriously looking at prosecuting people who cause fires this summer.
There's a total fire ban in Northland and fireworks have been banned in Karikari Peninsula, Ahipara township, and surrounding areas since December 14.
Quick action by firefighters stopped the fire from spreading to other parts of the Motutara Farm Holiday Park on Rockell Rd at Whananaki North about 12.15am yesterday.
Whananaki fire chief Mark Arrowsmith said fireworks also started a fire on the south side of the same area early on New Year's Day last year.
This time, he said, the fire was on the north side and was complicated by a house about 5m away.
"Our priority was to protect the house. By the time we arrived, the fire had come pretty close to it and then reinforcements came from Hikurangi and Kamo."
Arrowsmith said it took firefighters about an hour to bring the fire under control but they were at the scene for three hours.
Campground owner Bruce Barron praised the fire brigades for their quick response despite it being quite a busy season.
He said kikuyu grass was extremely dry at this time of the year but luckily the fire was contained in time.
Northland deputy rural fire officer Michael Champtaloup said the callout in Whananaki was the second fireworks-related incident firefighters attended on New Year's Day.
The other was a grass fire in Mangawhai.
With Northland/Auckland anniversary day and Waitangi Day coming up, he urged Northlanders and other holidaymakers to be careful around the use of firecrackers.
"Over the last few years, not many people responsible for lighting fires or causing them through the use of firecrackers have been prosecuted but in future, chances of prosecution is high.
"Grass is quite dry and any fire that starts can spread very quickly. There's a total fire ban but it doesn't include the use of fireworks, although their use is extremely risky.
"That's why we discourage the use of private fireworks and urge people to go to public fireworks displays. The public is responsible for any fires caused by fireworks," he said.
Champtaloup said the consequences of the fire at Whananaki could have been serious.
Limited evacuation exits from the campground, coupled with the fact helicopters could not be used for firefighting at night, were facts lost on many people, he said.
Champtaloup said escaped rubbish fires have been the main cause of vegetation fires this holiday season and said any person who lit a fire without a permit was liable for a fine of up to $300,000 or two years in prison.