Arsonists keep firefighters busy

A church, a reserve, boats and vehicles have been set on fire in arson attacks across the South Island.

Two fire crews, wearing breathing apparatus, were needed to put a fire out in the earthquake-damaged Cass St church in Ashburton about 7am yesterday.

"It is suspicious, because it's not occupied and not used at all," a Fire Service spokeswoman said.

Specialist fire investigator Kelvin Hampton said the fire had "several points of origin" in the entrance and hall of the double-brick Seventh-day Adventist church, including in an electric keyboard and some plastic flowers

There was smoke damage throughout the church, which was for sale. "It's by no means a victimless crime," Mr Hampton said. "It has caused significant damage in terms of repair cost."

The incident followed three separate suspicious fires in Picton. Picton chief fire officer Wayne Wytenburg said the fires, early yesterday, involved boats and vehicles. Police and fire safety officers were investigating.

On Saturday, firefighters dealt with a scrub fire in the middle of a reserve in Rocking Horse Rd, Southshore, Christchurch. "It was vegetation right at the end of the spit. It's the second time we have been there in a few days," the Fire Service spokeswoman said.

A police spokesman confirmed arson was suspected.

Fairfax Media