A small Far North community was ''turned upside down'' as an alleged arsonist lit a series of fires while being chased by locals, police and firefighters for almost 12 hours.
The drama ended around 10am on Wednesday when police arrested a 43-year-old man at Owhata, a settlement next to Herekino Harbour, about 20km south of Ahipara.
By 1.30pm the last, and biggest, fire had been extinguished by a helicopter using a monsoon bucket.
An Owhata resident said police had been called to the area twice during the day on Tuesday but trouble escalated around 11pm.
The man, who did not want to be named, said he was woken up by an aunt saying someone had broken windows and lit a fire at her home further down Owhata Rd.
He put out the fire, which turned out to be only a burning pillow but it was close enough to her house to put it in danger.
On the way home he spotted a grass fire and a man, who he recognised as a newcomer to the settlement, feeding the flames with pieces of cardboard.
He picked up an uncle and together they put out that blaze with water and a spade.
After ''scouting around'' they found the man hiding nearby. He ran off up Owhata Rd where he lit another fire in pampas grass.
With no cellphone reception in the area he got his son to use the phone at Owhata Marae to call police.
By then it was around midnight.
He stationed himself at a bridge to stop the man coming back towards the settlement, fearing for his aunt's house in particular, then put out another fire further up Owhata Rd.
Another blaze in pine trees was too big to tackle alone so he went back to the marae to call the fire brigade.
He still could hear the man ''yelling and screaming'' but by then he was on the other side of the estuary.
''He was just running riot ... For our quiet little community to be turned upside down like that, it was crazy. We're quiet people that go about our own business here.''
He said police arrived around 5am and, after giving a statement, he went to bed at 6am.
When he woke up at 9am police were searching the area with a drone and dogs, and smoke was billowing from a scrub fire behind a ridge.
Ahipara fire chief Dave Ross said the brigade was called out about 2.30am for a series of fires on Owhata Rd. Ahipara, Broadwood and Kaitaia brigades responded.
The Ahipara brigade was called out again about 7.30am for another fire, but that one was about 2.5km from the road across farmland then 300m down a steep ridge.
They couldn't reach it by vehicle so a Salt Air helicopter was called in from Paihia to douse the flames.
The scrub fire covered an area of about 30m x 30m but was travelling uphill and being fanned by wind off the harbour.
The volunteers were tired but otherwise it was ''just another night'', Ross said.
A police spokeswoman said the search by police and volunteer firefighters paid off when a 43-year-old man was arrested around 10am.
Officers, including a police dog unit, and fire crews "held their ground" as they crossed rivers in the dark in search of the man they believed had hidden in dense bush.
He was eventually arrested without issue on Owhata Rd less than 5km from where he allegedly lit the last fire.
Police were helped by the fact the man was trapped by the terrain and location of the fires.
"He was unable to get out and away," she said.
The man is due to appear in the Kaitaia District Court today. His charges had yet to be determined at edition time yesterday.