Principal Rural Fire Officer Myles Taylor has long believed that education is the key to persuading people not to light fires when conditions are as dry as they currently are, but yesterday he was beginning to wonder if it was time to change tactics.

"It's really quite concerning," he said.

"People just aren't listening. They don't seem to know, or don't care, about the fire ban. Maybe it's time we thought about taking another approach."

The alternatives including billing those responsible for fires to recoup the cost of putting them out.


Mr Taylor's frustration was prompted by a blaze on a Kimberly Rd property at Ngataki, north of Houhora, on Sunday afternoon.

The fire, which burned around 4ha of trees and other vegetation, including pasture on the northern edge, destroyed three caravans and at one stage was very close to a house.

"We contained it quite quickly," he said.

"We hit it really hard and fast, but even so we were lucky that the wind was in our favour. If it hadn't been we would have lost the house, guaranteed."

The fire, he added, had been started by a fish smoker set amongst trees — "the worst possible place" — a short distance from the house.

The alarm was raised at 12.45pm, crews from Houhora and Kaitaia responding with appliances and water tankers. Three Salt Air helicopters, one of which was believed to have been called from a fire near Kerikeri, supported the ground crews, while a Far North Roading digger was used to cut a fire break.

Two of the helicopters were stood down once the fire was contained, but a forestry crew remained at the scene overnight, and another returned yesterday morning to finish the job.

"They'll be there all day," Mr Taylor said, adding that, once again, he was extremely grateful for the contribution made by Far North Roading.


"They are wonderful," he said.

"They drop whatever they are doing when they're needed, and are always ready and willing to provide whatever equipment might be needed. It's a very community-minded company, and I can't speak highly enough of them."

Kaitaia's deputy Chief Fire Officer, Ross Beddows, said the helicopters had taken water from a small pond on a property on the other side of State Highway 1. His crew had been stationed on the northern edge of the fire, where they found enough water in a nearby drain to prevent the flames from travelling further in very dry grass.

He agreed with Mr Taylor that the fire had been hit hard and fast, although the resident turkeys were going to have to find a new place to roost for some time.