Disturbing trend in Marlborough

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Radio New Zealand

Marlborough, Sunday, January 15, 2017

A rural fire chief is worried about the number of fires being deliberately lit in Blenheim’s Wither Hills.

About 60 residents were evacuated from their homes in the area last night, as strong wind gusts blew a grass fire towards their properties.

Six helicopters and more than 30 fire fighters were battling the blaze when it was at its height.

Marlborough Principal Rural Fire Officer Richard McNamara said that arson could be to blame.

“Just where the fire ignited, there were no observable ignition causes in that area” he said.

“There has also been a series of suspicious fires in that area over the last few weeks, beginning before Christmas, and we have had a history of suspicious fires in that area over the past three to four years. Therefore, it is a disturbing trend.”

Police and a fire investigator were working to establish who was responsible for the fire, Mr McNamara said.

A crew has remained at the scene overnight and bulldozers will be brought in today to control any underground hot spots.

It follows two suspicious fires on New Year’s Eve, both of which broke out near the Wither Hills Farm Park.

It took four helicopters and seven crews to bring those fires under control.

Police earlier said that they believed the person responsible for those fires arrived in a car or on a bike.

A total fire ban remains in place across Marlborough.

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RNZ Picture by Tracy Neal

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