Fires a nui­sance but could be danger­ous

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS - By MA­JORIE COOK

Wanaka po­lice are still ap­peal­ing for public help to catch a sus­pected se­rial ‘‘fire bug’’ be­fore some­thing burns down.

Wanaka’s public toi­let clean­ers are also keen to see the fire bug stopped.

Queen­stown Lakes Dis­trict Coun­cil con­trac­tor Dave Manson, of City Clean­ers, said he was con­cerned about the fre­quency and the po­ten­tial for more dam­age. ‘‘It’s get­ting pretty tire­some’’.

The mys­tery fires re­main un­re­solved this week, Sergeant Keith Newell said.

Last week, Se­nior Sergeant Al­lan Grindell said four mi­nor, ‘‘nui­sance’’ fires had been lit in public toi­lets since April 5 – the lat­est last Wed­nes­day – and he sus­pected the cul­prit could be on school hol­i­day and might not be a lo­cal.

‘‘We are seek­ing help from the public. Is there some­one at their ad­dress ar­riv­ing home later than nor­mal, or pos­si­bly smelling of fire? [We] also note that it is the start of the school hol­i­days and that some­one vis­it­ing the town might be re­spon­si­ble,’’ Grindell said.

Three fires were in the lake­front public toi­let on the in­ter­sec­tion of McDougall St and Mt As­pir­ing Rd. The Wanaka Fire Brigade was not re­quired.

The brigade was called to put out three flam­ing wheelie bins near the Di­nosaur Park toi­lets be­tween 2am and 3am on Tues­day last week.

Manson said to­tal dam­age from all the in­ci­dents was limited to scorch marks on a light fit­ting, plas­tic strips on the toi­let bowl and near a pa­per dis­penser.

The fire lighter ap­peared to be set­ting toi­let pa­per on fire in­side the toi­let bowls, Manson said. While Grindell said the dam­age had been ‘‘rel­a­tively small nui­sance value’’, he was con­cerned the fire light­ing could es­ca­late.

Wanaka fire chief Bruno Gal­loway said he was con­cerned. But un­til con­tacted by the me­dia, he had not been aware of all the fires.

The brigade had put the wheelie bin fire down to ‘‘just kids and the school hol­i­days’’, Gal­loway said.

Wanaka last en­dured se­rial nui­sance fires in the Jan­uary 2010 school hol­i­days.

More than 10 grass fires were lit in dry con­di­tions and de­spite an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by fire ser­vice in­ves­ti­ga­tors and po­lice, the cul­prit was never caught.

Dave Manson of City Clean­ers says ‘‘it’s get­ting pretty tire­some’’ clean­ing up af­ter a fire bug set­ting fires in Wanaka’s public toi­lets th­ese school hol­i­days. Photo: Mar­jorie Cook/Fair­fax NZ

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