New Zealand — Arson is suspected in a scrub fire that destroyed 40 hectaresof Department of Conservation land at Lake Ohia, on the Karikari Peninsula.
Principal rural fire officer for the Far North Lance Johnston has warnedpeople in the Far North that they could pay dearly for breaching the area’stotal fire ban.
Five DOC fire crews, three fire engines from Karikari and Rangiputa firebrigades and a helicopter managed to contain the blaze which threatened tospread on to the Far North District Council’s reserve on Ramp Rd, at lunch houron Tuesday.
DOC spokesman Carolyn Smith said they were first alerted to the fire at5.30am.
She said more staff joined in the battle as the immediate goal was to containthe fire as quickly as possible to minimise loss of vegetation and nativespecies.
One sector of the fire had spread down to the sand dunes at Tokerau Beach,but it burned itself out.
There was no immediate danger to properties, although there were houses alongRamp Rd near the fire.
She said DOC staff were monitoring the situation closely and would stay atthe site overnight.
An investigation would be conducted to ascertain the source and cause of thefire, but Mr Johnston said an arsonist was suspected.
A fire ban is in place in the district and he said it was best not to lightfires at all.
The maximum penalty for breaching a fire ban was six months in jail or a$2000 fine.
Lake Ohia Reserve is an area of about 490 hectares of lake bed containing30,000-year-old kauri stumps. The soil is a mixture of peat and mud and containsnative sedges and rushes and numerous native orchids.
It is also home to the rare black mudfish, Northland green gecko, shoreskinks and a wide variety of wetland birds.
The fire for scrub is extreme at present and there’s a fire restriction inplace in the Far North district.
A permit is required at any time of the year to light fires within onekilometre of any public land administered by DOC.