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Firebugs strike again

JAY BOREHAM
Last updated 07:47 01/02/2013
Simeon Brown
JAY BOREHAM
NOT AGAIN: Simeon Brown surveys the damage left after yet another deliberately lit fire.

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Arsonists targeting a bush reserve have struck again, this time endangering lives and property.

Up to 50 people were evacuated from their homes at around 4.30pm on Wednesday after firebugs set Clendon Reserve ablaze in several places.

Ten fire trucks, a command unit and 45 firefighters from Papakura to Mt Roskill raced to the scene.

High winds made controlling the fires difficult and they spread quickly, burning an area 300 metres long.

Firefighters initially concentrated on one of the blazes as it threatened homes.

That meant the other fires joined together and grew bigger, Clendon resident Simeon Brown says.

Residents in Burundi Ave and Rukumoana Place, which neighbour the reserve, have been on high alert this summer after being plagued by a spate of deliberately lit fires, he says.

Mr Brown arrived home after the flames started.

"I was driving home and all I could see was smoke everywhere. I was like ‘is that my house or the neighbours house?' It was scary."

The arsonists are endangering the area far too often and residents are alarmed, he says.

"We are all hugely appreciative of the response of the Fire Service and the police who have done a great job of keeping residents safe and protecting property."

Fire Service risk management officer Phil Faidley says there have been several deliberately lit fires in the reserve this summer but says this is the biggest.

"Unfortunately this is a regular occurrence at this time of year in this part of the world - in the scrub, at the end of school holidays."

Police are now investigating and were door-knocking in the area yesterday to see if residents had noticed anyone acting suspiciously.

Anyone who saw anything should contact the Counties Manukau police on 261 1300 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 with the information, Mr Faidley says.

People also need to be careful when using open flames or discarding cigarettes.

"There is now a total fire ban in force in Auckland until further notice.

"That has been extended and does include cultural cooking such as hangi, umu and the use of any solid-fuel burning outside while the conditions are desperately dangerous."

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- Manukau Courier

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