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Mystery surrounds Browns Island woman

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/11/2016

The fire on Browns Island is contained but it's not clear why the woman who started it to alert people to her plight was on the uninhabited island in the Hauraki Gulf.

She had been lighting spot fires to attract attention and one got out of control.

Principal Rural Fire Officer Bryan Cartelle says firefighters have established a good perimeter around the fire, which is not expected to spread any further.

"The crews have felled several trees on the island to minimise any further risks, and we expect the team to be returning to the mainland at high tide this evening.

"They have done an excellent job to contain this fire in what can be difficult conditions," he said.

They had been working on dampening down hotspots.

The blaze was burning out of control and the woman was spotted from a helicopter, which had responded to reports of the fire. The police vessel was sent to get her.

She was treated at hospital for dehydration and was now in a relatively good condition, resting at home, police said.

Detective Sergeant Tony McKenzie says police have concerns for her mental wellbeing and remain perplexed at what she was doing at the recreation reserve.

"We're still trying to ascertain how she came to be on the island, and we have further inquiries to complete into that," he said.

"This will include conducting a scene examination, in conjunction with the rural fire service, to establish the circumstances."

"She's told us she was left stranded there on Monday afternoon for three nights, and that she was able to access food and shelter in a hut on the island."

"She had lit, and then later extinguished, small fires to attract attention for help from passing boats but yesterday evening's fire had got out of her control due to winds."

"We'd like to hear from anyone who may have seen the woman on the island since Monday or saw activity on or near the island on Monday afternoon."

The fire, which started around 7.30pm on Thursday, burnt through 13.2ha.

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