Fire and Emergency New Zealand believes the 19km blaze in Cape Reinga is “likely to be deliberate”, as firefighters attempt to contain the fire six days after it started.
Dennis Cooper, a deputy principal rural fire officer, told Stuff on Monday morning that while the fire was now 95% out, it would take another two days of work to extinguish it completely.
“Right now we are chasing hot spots on the perimeter and removing them,” Cooper said.
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Fire and Emergency’s Northland district manager Wipari Henwood said on Thursday that the fire broke out near a walking track and an investigator would look at the cause.
Cooper believes the trigger for the days-long fire was “likely to be deliberate”.
“We are still working through investigations, but this fire did not start by itself,” he said.
When the fire started on March 28, Cooper said there were 63 firefighters and 40 support people on the scene. This number stands at 37 firefighters on Monday.
Fenz has been using helicopters and monsoon buckets to attempt to control the blaze, as well as “boots on the ground” and firefighters working around the perimeter.
While no structures or people were threatened by the significant blaze, Cooper said there had been ecological damage to a number of old pā sites and native plants in the area.
The fire is eating its way through highly flammable mānuka, kānuka and gorse – all of which can burn even when there is no drought.
Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga Wairua is a place of cultural, environmental and recreational significance, especially to Ngāti Kuri iwi – who alerted firefighters to the blaze and had been proactive in firefighting efforts.
It is known by Māori as the place where spirits last set foot on the Land of the Long White Cloud before making their way to their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki.
On Wednesday last week, the blaze forced the closure of State Highway 1 between Te Paki Stream Road and Cape Reinga, due to the direction of the wind, but the road opened the following day.