Fireworks that sparked bush fire could prove very costly

Fireworks that sparked bush fire could prove very costly

15 January 2006

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New Zealand — An Auckland man whose fireworks sparked a bush fire in Northland on Saturday night may face a $20,000 bill for the blaze.

The fire on council land near the popular beach resort of Mangawhai, about 120km north of Auckland, started about 10pm and burnt about 4-5ha before being brought under control about 11pm.

Des Partington of the Mangawhai Heads Fire Service spoke on Saturday night to a man whose wayward skyrocket was believed to have caused the fire.

“He had the skyrockets set to go towards the sea and was letting them off to show his kids,” Mr Partington told NZPA today.

“But they were in a bottle in soft sand and when he moved away after lighting it it shifted and went into the bush instead.

“He’s very, very upset about it.”

But despite his remorse, the man – believed to be an Aucklander in his late 20s or early 30s – was set to face the consequences, Mr Partingtonsaid.

“Eventually he will probably be charged, though I don’t know that for sure,” he said.

“But certainly he will be getting a bill for it, which will probably be about $20,000.”

The fire is the second in the Mangawhai area to have been started by fireworks this month. The first, much smaller in scale, came a few minutes after midnight on New Year’s Day.

“We have a total fire ban in this area, and that includes fireworks,” Mr Partington said.

“But that and even punishments don’t seem to have that much effect. The trouble is trying to convince people that they are not 12 feet high and bulletproof.”

Two helicopters, five appliances and two Department of Conservation crews helped get the fire under control, DOC duty officer David Thonig said.

“We had a couple of flare-ups during the night which the crews looked after and there’s about three crews there dealing with hot spots at the moment,” Mr Thonig told NZPA.

“We want to get the message out that perhaps it’s not the best time to be playing with fireworks,” he said.

“We’ve had a total fire ban since about Christmas and it’s very dry up here.”

Initial fears were that the blaze could threaten houses but Mr Thonig said weather conditions on this occasion helped firefighters.

“The wind actually kept it away from houses so we didn’t have to evacuate anybody.”

DOC co-ordinated the firefighting because the blaze was within 1km of DOC coastal land at Mangawhai, a breeding ground for dotterels which were also not threatened by the fire.

People living a considerable distance away from the scene had reported large flames and a strong smell of smoke. 


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