The Army says it will continue holding live firing training
exercises in hot, dry conditions despite sparking two major
fires this week.
A fire destroyed 350ha of scrub on training land around the
Waiouru base in the central North Island after an exercise by
Singaporean armed forces on Tuesday.
And the next day, a major blaze ignited during live hand
grenade training at a Burnham rifle range at West Melton near
Acting Chief of Army Brigadier Peter Kelly yesterday
apologised for the "disruption and the angst" caused to local
residents by the Canterbury fire.
Live firing has been suspended at West Melton while an
investigation is under way.
The police have said arson charges could result if reckless
action by the army was proved.
Selwyn District Council principal rural fire officer Wilson
Brown estimated the Defence Force would face a bill of about
$200,000 for the cost of tackling the fire.
A New Zealand Defence Force spokeswoman confirmed a court of
inquiry would be held into its origins.
But in the meantime, live firing will go ahead as planned on
other New Zealand military bases.
"Live firing will continue on other bases around NZ based on
risk assessment procedures already in place," the spokeswoman
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said he was "very
concerned" by the two fires.
- Kurt Bayer of APNZ