Northland's Principal Rural Fire Officer, Myles Taylor, had little doubt on Friday that the fire which destroyed five hectares of bush and scrub, and forced the evacuation of a number of houses at Ahipara, was suspicious.

Yesterday, he had no doubt at all.

The alarm was raised at 1.24am after the fire, which began on the side of the road leading to Te Kohanga (Shipwreck Bay), engulfed a hillside, endangering a number of homes on the seaward side and others off the Gumfields road.

Four helicopters took several hours to contain the blaze, while ground crews worked at the edges, where terrain allowed, and stood by to prevent it from crossing the road, which would have endangered more homes.


Taylor yesterday said the investigation was making "some progress". The point of origin had been identified, but it was not clear whether a second fire had been lit at another site, or whether that was the result of the fire's natural spread.

The people of Ahipara were passing on a lot of information about what they knew or had heard, he added, which was very heartening.

"This fire could have been devastating, and we really need to know who started it," he said.

He also heaped praise on the firefighters, who had "worked their butts off" once again.
"The volunteers who serve the Far North are outstanding," he said.