8 May 2017

Anxious night ahead for Piha residents

8:30 pm on 8 May 2017

Piha residents say they've been left angry and afraid after a spate of suspicious fires in the seaside town.

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Takeaway shop Adey's Place was gutted by fire early on Sunday morning. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

The local takeaway shop, Adey's Place, was gutted by fire early on Sunday morning while two scrub fires also kept firefighters busy.

Local business owners are worried they might be targeted next and are beefing up security measures, even though police are putting on extra patrols this week.

Adey's Place owner Adrian Doggett was about to embark on a flight home from Fiji when he got a call to say his shop had been destroyed by fire.

"My wife broke down in tears over the counter and we had a very uncomfortable flight back."

Mr Doggett said all his staff were fingerprinted by police to eliminate them from their enquiries.

"You've got to look on the positive side, we are insured to a degree and we will arise somehow."

Adrian Doggett.

Adey's Place owner Adrian Doggett was heading home from Fiji when he got the bad news. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Mr Doggett was hoping he might be able to reopen his business temporarily from the Piha Surf Life Saving Club next door.

Rumours were rife in the seaside town over who lit the fires.

Some residents said one person had been taken into custody by police for questioning. But police said that was incorrect and they urged anyone with information about the fires to come forward.

Phil Wallis.

Piha local Phil Wallis is among those appealing for calm. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Surf instructor and Lion Rock Board Riders Club secretary Phil Wallis said he understood people felt scared by the fires but he appealed for calm.

"It's seen as an attack on the village."

Talk of vigilante action once the culprit was found should be nipped in the bud, he said.

"We haven't been given enough information to know who it is and we've ended up with people talking about vigilante action, but it just doesn't help. We need to let the police do their job."

Piha Domain Campground manager Fiona Anderson said she was very worried about the fires.

Fiona Anderson.

Fiona Anderson: "I've become aware just how exposed we are in this small community." Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

She slept in her car to keep watch over the campground last night and had employed extra security to do the same tonight.

"I feel really anxious, really vulnerable and I've become aware just how exposed we are in this small community away from extra back-up."

Piha Cafe owner Jean Paul Knight was also very concerned about the suspected arson attacks and had considered sleeping on the premises too.

"It's a heck of a worry, insurance only does so much."

Piha resident Adam May was sleeping in the house behind Adey's Place when the fire started.

Piha resident Adam May.

Piha resident Adam May - pictured next to the destroyed takeaway place. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

His grandparents ran the takeaway years ago and his grandmother still owned the building.

"I walked outside and saw that it was all black and the roof had caved in, so it was a shock."

"I think it will definitely be repaired and come back stronger and even better than before. That's the silver lining but obviously there's trauma in between."

Police said there had been an overwhelming response from the public so far and they were working hard to identify the person, or people, responsible.

They urged anyone with information about the fires to contact them or Crimestoppers.