A former volunteer firefighter is responsible for one of New Zealand's worst arson sprees, which saw a dozen Auckland properties burned and caused $2.5 million in damage, the Weekend Herald can reveal.
He told police he gained a "real thrill" out of being in a place he shouldn't be and an even greater high from lighting the fires.
In his own words, he said he "would've continued" if police hadn't arrested him.
The 22-year-old and a mate were responsible for torching several properties, including a school, throughout the wider Papakura and Pukekohe area last April.
Showhomes, vacant houses under construction and even an onion packing shed were all set ablaze.
One house, an old villa on Patumahoe Rd was razed to the ground, while a showhome was so badly damaged it was later demolished after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at it, court documents released to the Weekend Herald show.
The fires caused some $2.5m worth of damage - making it one of the costliest cases of arson ever in New Zealand.
After lighting the first fire, on Pukekohe's Kitchener Rd, the duo returned to watch the home burn as firefighters battled the flames.
The soon-to-be serial arsonist even told the Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) crew he was a volunteer firefighter and helped them create a cordon around the blaze, court documents read.
When he was arrested, police found a petrol container, spray paint, lighters, a bundle of black gloves and fireworks in the boot of his car.
The young man was sentenced in the Manukau District Court this weekafter earlier pleading guilty to 14 charges, including 12 counts of arson, one attempted arson and one burglary.
He was jailed for six years and three months by Judge David Harvey.
His mate, a farm hand, was also arrested for helping light the fires and was imprisoned for five years.
The court heard, however, that the former firefighter was the "more dominant" offender.
But the serial arsonist's identity has remained suppressed ever since he was arrested on May 4 last year after police hunted the firebug.
It was kept a secret for more than a year, in part, because FENZ wished to keep his firefighting history from the public, the court has heard.
As a result, a court order prohibited any publication about a link the arsonist had with FENZ.
Ironically, FENZ was also working with Counties Manukau Police during the search for the offenders, while its firefighters were at risk when attending the blazes.
But after Judge Harvey sentenced the duo he also lifted the gag order on the FENZ connection after it was opposed by the Weekend Herald.
The Weekend Herald still cannot publish the former volunteer firefighter's name, however, due to further legal matters.
FENZ Te Hiku region manager Ron Devlin said in a statement: "We are extremely disappointed by the actions of the individual concerned. These actions are not representative of our volunteers or the values we stand for."
The arsonist is no longer one of the more than 11,000 FENZ volunteers, Devlin confirmed.
The ex-fireman initially denied any involvement with the arsons but later admitted to police he was at every blaze.
A pre-sentence report said he displayed a self-entitled attitude and was "boasting" and "laughing" when talking about his fires.
When he was granted bail last June, the former firefighter also began laughing.
The burglary charge he and his co-offender faced was for a break-in at Patumahoe School, which caused $7000 in damage, while the ex-firefighter was also before the courts for shooting metal slugs from an airgun at pedestrians in central Auckland.
Defence lawyer Shane Cassidy said his client was diagnosed with ADHD from an early age, which may explain some of his odd behaviour.
Judge Harvey said: "He's a messed up young man."
The now convicted criminal needed "an awful lot of soul searching and assistance" to help "bring him back around and back to the young man that his parents knew".
"It appears that you have little understanding about what you have done, little empathy for the victims and little understanding for the situation for which young find yourself," the judge told him.
Judge Harvey said of the fires: "The monetary loss, although it is enormous, only tells part of the story."
The human cost, he added, was the "almost ruination of the lives of a number of people".
Puni School principal Haydon Brill has told the Herald one of the fires "completely gutted" a classroom.
"We are devastated, we are angry but we are also incredibly relieved that we have had support. We're incredibly relieved that [police] found someone," he said.
The fire destroyed teaching resources and the children's schoolwork, while the classroom could not be used for the remainder of 2018, court documents read.
The cost of the damage to the school reached $300,000.
The South Auckland arsonist is the second former FENZ volunteer to be revealed as a serial firestarter in recent months.
In March, Andrew Lee Searle was jailed for lighting 10 fires in Northland.
He was the son of two senior fire officers.