Anger over cost of fires

Dominion Post | 25 March 2003


FIREFIGHTERS and police are angry at the $80,000 cost of fighting two deliberately lit fires that threatened to cut off Porirua's electricity supplies and spread across drought-ravaged hills to the Hutt Valley.

Fire damage

Fire damage

The first fire was reported near Brandon Intermediate School in Cannons Creek about 4.15pm on Friday.  As police arrested a 14-year-old boy in connection with that incident, a bigger fire was reported in bush and scrub behind nearby Porirua College.

Porirua City Council rural fire officer Gordon Simpson said five helicopters were called in and played a crucial role in fighting the fires.  "The main power lines to Porirua and a substation were at risk."

Mr Simpson said the fires burned scrub, gorse and trees.  "We were lucky there was very little wind and that we were able to put out the fires before nightfall."

The cost of fighting the fires was likely to be about $80,000, he said.

The firebugs have also upset the Friends of Maara Roa, a community group involved in replanting the area with native trees.  Co-ordinator Sylvia Jenkin said 3000 trees planted by volunteers in the past three years had been lost.  Members would meet this week to decide whether to replant the area.

Three teenagers appeared in Porirua Youth Court to face arson charges on Saturday, and a fourth teenager arrested on Saturday appeared in court yesterday.  All four, two aged 16 and two 14, have been remanded on bail under strict conditions.

Police said they were considering whether to seek recovery of costs from the alleged offenders.