Arson warning for city

Arson warning for city

25 March 2008

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New Zealand — An arsonist is believed to be behind the latest in a series of “needless” fires in Rotorua over the past five months.

A fire was lit near the Rotorua BMX track on Monday about 4.30pm.

It was extinguished before it caused major damage.

On Sunday, a fire destroyed 2ha of scrub adjacent to a walkway behind the Whakarewarewa Rugby Club, near the BMX track.

The fire sent flames leaping metres into the air and smoke wafting through Whakarewarewa Forest, alarming some forest users who thought the forest was on fire.

It also threatened the Rotorua Archery and Kiaora Club buildings, near the Rotorua Waste Treatment Plant.

Firefighters believe the fire was also arson, and linked to about 10 fires in the area over the past four to five months.

Rotorua Fire Service senior station officer Colin Rolfe said firefighters were called out to an area behind the Waste Treatment Plant about 4.30pm yesterday.

Mr Rolfe said the area had been hit at least 10 times in the last five months.

“There has been so many fires down there in the last four or five months,” Mr Rolfe said.

If firefighters and fire appliances were tied up dealing with “needless” arsons, people’s lives could be put in danger and homes could be be destroyed.

“It limits the amount of people we’ve got to go to that,” Mr Rolfe said.

“You could say that it puts lives at risk in Rotorua for needless acts.”

Mr Rolfe said there were thermal pools near the Waste Treatment Plant, making firefighting tricky.

“You’ve got to be careful where you’re putting your foot.”

Sunday’s fire started about midday and took fire fighters about two hours to bring under control.

At times the blaze was clearly visible above the trees which towered the scrub bordering the walkway connecting Ngapuna with the city centre.

Hundreds of holiday-makers and local spectators watched the fire as it raged out of control with thick black smoke billowing above the trees.

Meanwhile, the Taupo Fire Service has also been dealing with a suspected arsonist.

Firefighters were called to a suspicious forest fire at Lake Ohakuri in Taupo about 8pm last night.

Station manager Graeme Trainor said firefighters were at the deliberately lit fire until about 11pm and the Pumicelands Rural Fire Authority took over.

He said the fire started on the Ohakuri Rd roadside bottom but they were unable to put it out as it had reached the forest.

“We couldn’t even get hold of it,” Mr Trainor said.

Mr Trainor said Pumicelands Rural Fire Authority were at the scene overnight and helicopters were likely to be used today to put the fire out.

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