Firefighters are stepping up efforts to stamp out suspicious and preventable fires in the Far North.
The Northern Rural Fire Authority is rolling out an arson reduction strategy and fire safety campaign in the lead-up to summer.
Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor says the cost of fighting scrub and forest fires in Northland totalled $2 million last summer.
"That figure doesn't include the financial losses suffered by forest owners or the economic impact of taking hundreds of firefighters away from their jobs for weeks."
Two members of the fire fighting community died fighting a suspicious fire at Karikari Bay last December.
"We are disappointed that the person who lit this fire has not been brought to justice and are determined to do what we can to prevent fires claiming further lives."
The authority is partnering with Crimestoppers for the first time to make it easier for people to provide information about arsonists to the police anonymously.
"Crimestoppers guarantee not to ask for your name or record your call. You can also provide information about criminal activities online by going to crimestoppers-nz.org and completing an encrypted message form."
Where there have been suspicious fires, the authority will erect signs asking people with information about fire lighters to call the hotline anonymously on freephone 0800 555 111.
"We plan to investigate all fires this summer and hold those responsible to account."
Mr Taylor asks people in fire-prone areas to be extra vigilant and to report suspicious activities to Crimestoppers.
"There is a code of silence around criminal activities in some communities which is misplaced and cannot continue."
A new website, havingafire. org.nz, offers fire safety tips and information about fire restrictions and includes a fire permit register that fire fighters can access from a mobile.
"It will make it quicker and easier for fire officers to identify non-permitted fires so that these fires can be extinguished and the fire lighters dealt with more effectively."
Adverts urging people to take simple safety precautions before lighting outdoor fires will go up on billboards across the district.
"We need to focus attention on the ads and the messages in them so hopefully they will become a talking point."
- Bay Chronicle
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