The road in the area is still closed to traffic after 40 firefighters and six trucks, as well as two helicopters, were needed to bring the blaze under control on the night, and investigators are still on the scene.
While they couldn’t comment on the details, Pumicelands principal rural fire officer Alan Pearce told the New Zealand Herald: “One thing about today’s investigation — we did not discover a natural cause for that fire, so that raises suspicion, doesn’t it?
“It’s not a spontaneous event of nature.”
When the fire started, a witness named Ryan Biggar told the Herald that he saw a green flare in the sky just before the blaze started: “We just saw it go up and it just sailed down in an arc direction.
“The fire started where the flare landed a couple of minutes after we saw it.”
Pearce added of the procedure after the fire was put out: “Following that, we got a Department of Conservation rural fire team up there and they cleared the fire grounds and dampened down a few remaining hotspots.
“Very dangerous work, working on that fire — it’s very steep and very rubbley.”
He also said that while the area was not considered safe, most access remained closed until further notice. Tauranga police also called for the public to bring any information they may have.