Latest Nelson fire might have been arson

With extreme fire risk in Nelson ongoing, questions are being asked about whether the latest blaze was caused by an arsonist.

The official line is that it is "too early to say" if the Redwood Valley fire was deliberately lit, but privately authorities admit there are few other reasons.

Other than arson, it could have been a cigarette out of a car or a piece of glass acting as a magnifying glass and setting the dry ground alight.

But police are investigating whether it was deliberately lit, asking for a man seen running with his dog in the area to come forward.

Furthermore, two other fires - on Rabbit Island and Walter's Bluff - since the initial  major one are believed to have been deliberately lit. The initial fire has been blamed on a spark from machinery.

But if this latest fire was lit intentionally, it means there are arsonists on the loose responsible for three potential fires.

This fire came in striking distance of several homes, and the fire service released a graphic showing that if it was not contained, it could have spread to the state highway withing five hours.

Bill Lynch's Redwood Valley orchard was right in the line of fire.

"When we could see the flames leaping up through the trees we knew it was quite serious," he said.

Son Dan Lynch was forced to evacuate when he saw something was happening.

"A fire engine driving past my picking crew with its lights on, closely followed by a police car with its lights on flashing," he said.

The Lynch orchard has been under siege - the first major fire three weeks ago was coming at them, as was this one.

"There's the other one on the right, and here's a new one," said Mr Lynch.

At stake was his apple crop, which he has been breeding for 20 years.

Now ready for testing market in China - it has to be picked immediately.

"So on day one into the harvest, here we go. We marched off the orchard."

Another fire that wipes them out - a reality.

"It was a devastating feeling."

The fire broke out near the roadside and there is no obvious cause like machinery which caused the original major fire, raising the question: was it deliberately lit?

"You just hope and pray that there's not some deranged mind out there."

A potential arsonist amping up the danger.