‘Please be careful’: Fireworks are the cause of the Te Mata peak fire

The blaze seen from the trig atop Te Mata Peak, south of Hastings, at 8.45pm on Friday.

Colin Barriff/Supplied

The blaze seen from the trig atop Te Mata Peak, south of Hastings, at 8.45pm on Friday.

Fireworks are the cause of an overnight blaze on Hawke’s Bay’s Te Mata Peak, and fire services are asking people to be careful to avoid more calls on Guy Fawkes .

A youngster is helping police investigate the fire and police say they are not looking for anyone else. No arrests were made.

Witnesses to the brush fire were convinced the fireworks were to blame – and Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) confirmed the brush fire was the result of fireworks setting off. Ten fire engines were called to the brush fire, and it took more than two hours to extinguish.

Havelock North resident Colin Barriff was at the top on Friday night showing visiting friends one of Hawke’s Bay’s most popular tourist attractions when he noticed ‘young guys’ were setting off fireworks over away in the parking lot.

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The view from Te Mata Peak is a popular tourist attraction for Hawke's Bay.

BROOK SABIN

The view from Te Mata Peak is a popular tourist attraction for Hawke’s Bay.

One of the fireworks set the brush on fire almost immediately, Barriff says — but the group in the parking lot didn’t notice and kept lighting new fireworks. From the top, people shouted at them to stop.

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“They weren’t thinking about what they were doing,” he said. The group “took off” immediately when they realized the peak was on fire.

Barriff called the fire department. “You could see the flames rising to the top of the peak. It started to catch quite high up the top and apparently spread further down. There was a lot of smoke, a lot of flames.

He said he was unsure whether fireworks were freely available, stressing that it was not the first time Te Mata had caught fire around November 5. The fire would have diverted fire resources from more important jobs.

“Hawke’s Bay is so dry it’s not a safe place to launch fireworks. We tested this theory and there are fires.

FENZ Group director Gordy Foster said the fire was an important reminder before Guy Fawkes.

“Please be careful with your fireworks this Guy Fawkes. You don’t want to be the person responsible for starting a fire, damaging property or injuring someone by not paying attention to the fires fireworks,” he said.

He encouraged people to check conditions and not set off fireworks if it was too windy or dry.

Te Mata Peak Trust chairman Mike Devonshire said the blaze was “hugely disappointing” and there was clear signage of a fireworks ban on the peak that the people chose to ignore.

He thanked the firefighters for their outstanding work and said it was lucky the peak was not yet “drier” as it was at the height of summer. “I’m not a politician, but the sooner fireworks aren’t available for free, the better.”

Mike Devonshire says the blaze is disappointing and there is clear signage that fireworks are prohibited at the top of Te Mata.  (File photo)

John Cowpland / Stuff

Mike Devonshire says the blaze is disappointing and there is clear signage that fireworks are prohibited at the top of Te Mata. (File photo)

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the council would close the road to the Te Mata summit at 7pm on Guy Fawkes night as a precaution against further fireworks.

A spokesman for Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) said firefighters were called to the summit, located near Havelock North in Hawke’s Bay, at 8.37pm on Friday, and spent more than two hours battling the fire.

Access to the summit was closed as 10 fire engines battled the brush fire. FENZ said the fire did not threaten any homes but urged the public to avoid the area.

Earlier in the week, a fire that threatened a campsite and burned over 200 hectares in Canterbury’s north coast, was reportedly started by a teenager setting off fireworks.

Carol N. Valencia