The fire that destroyed much of a large shed on a farm on Runaruna Rd, between Broadwood and Panguru, on Saturday morning has been referred to the police for investigation.

Fire investigator Craig Bain, who inspected the scene on Sunday, said he believed the fire had been deliberately lit, but he had found no evidence of calves or dogs dying in the blaze, as initially reported.

The 'Northland Age' was told on Saturday that a number of dogs and a couple of dozen calves had died, but Bain said all had been rescued.

Kaitaia's deputy Chief Fire Officer, Ross Beddows, said there had certainly been a lot of calves in the immediate vicinity.

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"At one point I turned around and one was chewing on my hose," he said.

Twenty firefighters from Broadwood, Ahipara, Kohukohu and Kaitaia responded when the alarm was raised at 6.30am, Beddows saying that the fire had started in a smaller shed, where the calves were housed, then spread to a much larger open-sided implement and equipment shed, whose contents included three trucks. The tyres on two of the vehicles were burning when firefighters arrived.

The Broadwood crew, with their tanker, did what they could until further resources, including Kaitaia's water tanker, arrived, he added, and more water was taken from a nearby farm tank.

Firefighters using breathing apparatus had tried to save the trucks, but by that stage the smaller structure, which Bain said was actually part of the larger one, had collapsed.

The Kohukohu crew were the last to leave, at around 11am, after dampening down.