A 33-year-old man has appeared in the Whangārei District Court and is remanded in custody on serious charges after a house fire and a police hunt for the person responsible.
The charges, which were laid against the man after an incident put part of Maunu Rd in Whangārei into lock-down on Friday night, include wilfully setting fire to a property and endangering life, kidnapping, possession of an offensive weapon and threatening to kill.
A full-scale police search began around 6.30pm after a man ran away from a Housing New Zealand flat occupied by a woman.
The victim lived in the front unit of the house, which has been converted into two one-bedroom flats.
The flat was fully ablaze within minutes of the police call-out, with flames shooting into the sky and pungent black smoke billowing over the neighbourhood.
No one was hurt in the fire or the events that occurred just before it started.
The firefighters' job was made easier, and neighbouring houses safer, because it had been raining for several hours. The rain continued through the night.
Neighbours were reluctant to talk about the drama, which also threatened other homes - the houses on either side of the Housing NZ property are both tinder-dry villas more than 100 years-old. One is only metres from the burned-out flat.
As firefighters doused the blaze, armed police and dog teams worked the area searching for the offender. They took a man into custody about 7.40pm.
In initial news reports police confirmed they were searching for a person after a "domestic harm" incident and ensuing fire but would not say if they thought the man they sought was still armed.
But earlier, as fire appliances and many police vehicles swarmed into the area, neighbours were warned by police to lock themselves in their homes as "there was a man running around with a knife".
"We would like to thank residents in Maunu Rd and the surrounding areas for their co-operation as we worked to locate the man," a police spokesman said.
Despite being asked to stay securely inside, many neighbours had been on the street watching armed police, patrol cars, unmarked police cars, dog teams, fire appliances and ambulances converge on the scene.
Police had directed traffic away from the cordoned area between the Western Hills intersection and Hospital Rd, and Maunu Rd was reopened just before 9pm.
Security personnel remained at the fire-damaged property overnight.