Culprits hard to find

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2013

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Authorities have given up trying to catch those responsible for lighting the fireworks that sparked a large scrub fire on Godley Head.

Boy racers are believed to be behind the fire that destroyed about six hectares of tussock on Department of Conservation land above Mechanics Bay on Monday.

It was one of two fires within three days on Banks Peninsula. A fire sparked by a barbecue at Rapaki broke out about 2.30pm yesterday, prompting authorities to warn of the fire danger as the summer progresses.

A DOC spokeswoman said there would be no further investigation into the Godley Head fire as the cause of the fire was clear. Skid marks and fresh empty fireworks cases were found nearby.

"In terms of pinning it down . . . it would be pretty difficult, if not an impossible task."

She warned that while the fire risk was low to moderate, with all the spring growth that had dried there was plenty of "potential fuel" to catch alight.

The fire flared up again on Tuesday, prompting the fire service to call in monsoon buckets to contain it.

Yesterday, plumes of smoke could be seen over Rapaki Bay.

Jared Riwai-Couch, his wife, Melanie, and their five children, were on the beach and saw the fire start. It took off "rather fast", he said.

"There was a group of people there wanting to have a good time and had a barbecue, and next thing we know we look up and there was just a few metres of dried grass that had caught alight."

A fire service spokesman said firefighters from Lyttelton, Governors Bay, Lincoln and Christchurch responded, and the Westpac rescue helicopter was placed on standby.

The fire was not considered to have been started deliberately.

He advised people to be aware of the conditions and take care when lighting fires, and if they saw anything suspicious to call 111.

Fire safety officer Mark Thomas said the two incidents highlighted that people needed to take extra care. "People need to understand it's dry, it's summer time, barbecues and anything else along those lines can cause fires. People should be very, very careful," he said.

Firefighters were also called to an attempted arson at a Harrow St property in Phillipstown yesterday morning.

A fire service spokesman said it was fortunate that a neighbour noticed the sleepout, which had been converted into a laundry, was on fire and extinguished it before it had a chance to cause too much damage.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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