Youth Charged With Arson Over Bushfire

A 14-year-old youth will appear in court today charged with arson after a huge fire north of Wellington last night forced more than one hundred people to evacuate their homes.
The fire, near the suburb of Titahi Bay, has been brought under control, but people have been warned not to approach the area as firefighters, continue to monitor smouldering hot spots.
Police said the 14-year-old would appear in Porirua Youth Court this morning to face one count of arson relating to the fire.
More than 150 people from Gloaming Hill fled the area last night as firefighters worked to control the flames, before leaving the fire to burn overnight.
All residents have now been cleared to return to their homes. No property was damaged and no one was injured.
Porirua City Council spokeswoman Moana Wyatt said 20 hectares of rural land was burnt, leaving smouldering fields still giving off smoke.
Rural firefighters were back at the scene of the fire in case it flared up again, she said.
Fire Service spokesman Murray Dunbar said fire crews worked to control the blaze late yesterday, but were forced to scale back their fight last night.
“The fire was left to burn overnight from about halfpast midnight, that’s when the helicopters ceased flying, and the terrain was too difficult and dangerous for ground crews so they pulled back and basically monitored it overnight,” Mr Dunbar said.
“Fire services had four appliances there in rotation protecting properties in and around Gloaming Hill.”
Police said the cause of the fire was suspected arson and two young men were helping them with their inquiries.
Fourteen fire crews were called out yesterday afternoon to a large area of bush near the Titahi Bay golf course, where a blaze had quickly spread over 20ha.
Emergency services started trying to extinguish the flames about 4.30pm as an enormous plume of smoke towered over the Titahi Bay and Porirua areas.
Although there had been no reports of any homes or buildings nearby catching fire, police had taken the Gloaming Hill residents to Titahi Bay’s Niblick Hall.
About 9.30 last night, seven fire trucks, three rural fire crews and four helicopters were at the site helping to douse the flames.
Mana resident Chris Tiffen said the hill had been “glowing” since around 4.30pm.
“I just looked out the window and thought, ‘That cloud’s a bit dark.’ And then I realised that it was a big cloud of smoke. We’ve pretty much lost sight of the whole of Porirua.”
Mr Tiffen said there were times when it looked as though the blaze was dying out, but then it picked up again.
The hill was still blanketed with thick smoke about five hours after he first noticed the blaze.
“Even now, you can still see flames. Both sides, it’s still burning.”
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