A fire which began in grass on Mt Stewart, north of the Taihape township, just before midday yesterday before being contained in a 400sq m area at 4pm is believed to have been deliberately lit.
Seven fire trucks from stations between Taihape and Wanganui fought the blaze on the ground, with the help of two helicopters. A nearby kohanga reo was evacuated as a precaution.
Mt Stewart is next to Mataroa Rd/State Highway 1 and there are houses around the base of the reserve.
As it took hold, the fire was fuelled by macrocarpa trees and indigenous plants.
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Taihape Community Development Trust manager Elizabeth Mortland said the Rangitikei Environment Group had cleared Mt Stewart of old man's beard and other weeds. Friends of Mt Stewart maintained the reserve, replanting it with native trees and shrubs.
A Fire Service national supervisor in Wellington said children from the Te Puawai o Te Kakano Te Kohanga Reo were evacuated soon after the fire started. She said no houses were threatened.
Late yesterday afternoon, fire teams were still dampening down hot spots on Mt Stewart.