Fire crews from Kaitaia, Ahipara and Mangonui have fought
another deliberately-lit fire at the old timber mill in
Kaitaia - the sixth this year.
The arson was by far the most serious, Kaitaia Chief Fire
Officer Colin Kitchen said. He suspected the fire was lit up
to 45 minutes before the alarm was raised, just before 3.30am
This time the main building was targeted and most of the
dilapidated structure was destroyed, although the crews did a
great job of preventing it spreading from one end to the
Five fire appliances, a water tanker and 28 firefighters
turned out, Mr Kitchen said.
Allan Kerrisk, Fire Service manager for Muriwhenua, said six
fires at one site in less than eight months, and others in
the wider Kaitaia area this year, had the Fire Service
"Lives were not put at risk, although there are always risks
involved in fighting any fire, but these arsons are costing
the community dearly," he said.
"Not only is there a cost in terms of the volunteers' time,
much of it given when they would otherwise be at work, but
town water doesn't come cheap either, and a lot of water went
on to this fire.
"Then there is the potential loss of jobs. The owner of this
mill had been talking about getting it working again, and
using it to train people in the milling industry, but I
imagine that chance has gone now. All in all, this hasn't
been a good day for Kaitaia."
A pattern was beginning to emerge and Mr Kerrisk had no doubt
someone would know who was responsible.
"Someone will have the information we need to get to this
person and see that they get the help they need," he said.
He asked members of the public with information about the
fire, or those responsible, to contact Detective Sergeant
Trevor Beatson at 09 408 6500, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555
Fire Service arson experts and business analysts were
examining all recent fires in the greater Kaitaia area,
collating data such as the day of the week and hour of the
day that they were lit, to see if any connections could be
made, and passed on to the police.
Mr Kitchen, meanwhile, noted that once again arsons tied up
resources that could be needed elsewhere.
The blaze had not been easy to fight - the last firefighters
did not leave the scene until 1pm, and the site was kept
under surveillance for hours after that - but the crews had
done well under difficult circumstances.
- Peter Jackson of the Northland Age