Gas cooker blamed for fire

A fire which raged on Cecil Peak on Sunday night, eventually burning itself out on Monday, appeared to have been started by an ''unsupervised gas cooker''.

Sergeant Blair Duffy, of Queenstown, said a group of four men and two women contacted police on Monday afternoon and visited the station that night.

The group, all either 28 or 29 years old and all from the United Kingdom living and working in Queenstown, had visited Cecil Peak on a borrowed boat late on Sunday afternoon.

''They have initially gone over to have a barbecue and a few drinks [but] fairly early in the piece this has taken place.''

Sgt Duffy said the unsupervised gas cooker appeared to have started the fire, which quickly got out of control.

A 29-year-old man told police in a statement the group called 111 at the time, providing details of the fire and its location.

''Things were getting quite dangerous given they had a boat with probably 150 litres of fuel on board [so they left the area].''

On Sunday night, police spoke to two men seen speeding from Cecil Peak who disembarked in Queenstown Bay.

However, they were not part of the group who contacted police on Monday.

Sgt Duffy said the man claimed to have ''told someone at the Queenstown wharf'' to get either the Queenstown Lakes District Council harbour master or police to call them.

''They went home anticipating to receive a phone call or some contact ... and then upon waking up the next day and reading the paper and seeing there was media interest, that obviously police were looking for who was involved ... they made themselves known.''

Two rural fire crews, supported by two helicopters, dampened down hot spots on Monday morning after a helicopter inspection of the fire and surrounding area on Sunday night to ensure no-one was in the vicinity.

Senior communications adviser Michele Poole said the council would consider the statement provided by police before making any decisions on prosecution and/or recovery of costs.

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