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The bonfire erected by the Peace Cel» bratiotts Committee on the summit of Mount Eden, at a cost of £100, and which was to have been burned during the official celebrations of peace, was prematurelj sot on fire by mischief-makers shortly aftei eight o'clock last evening, and totally destroyed. No direct evidence of in. cendiarism wag obtainable, but it was stated by a party of boys who were thi first to arrive on the scene of the fire, that on their way up they had met foul youths running down the Mount Eden side of the mountain as though they feared detection. . It was considered Absolutely impossible for (he pile to have caught firt through spontaneous combustion. As a precaution against interference the, authorities had placed a guard on the mountain each night for a week part, but, owing to the inclement weather last evening, thy was not considered necessary.

The first intimation of Ac lire was re. ceived at about 8.10 p.m., when many residents of Mount Eden rominj; from church .noticed flame? on the summit of the mountain. In a few moment*, however, the intercity of the fire increased, and from the light cast on the surrounding country it was seen that the bonfire had been set alight and was burning at the southern side. Crowds of people aX once rushed for the mountain. From the summit the spectacle of the blazing pile was a very imposing one. Th» bonfire had been built within a circle of eight pine saplings, 100 ft high, firmly planted in the ground on the highest point of "the mountain. Inside this circle wero stacked pine boughs, corse, fern, and other inflammable matter. Twenty barrels of tar were placed in tie cetnre and large quantities of kauri gum "screenings" were deposited in different parte of the structure. In the centre was a circular draught hole wherein was placed a iadder, to be used for the lighting of the peace beacon. Spectacular Scene on Summit.

At first the flames, were confined '-o one* side but with a sudden change of wind to tjio south-west the entire stack became enveloped. Soon the lowest, platform, erected 3ft from the ground in order to create a draught, gave way and the entire upper portion fell with a heavy crash, accompanied by the crackling of the pine boughs, and a faint hissing as the flames penetrated to the barrels of tar. Tonguea of fire ran up the sides, and at about 9 p.m. tho bonfire looked not unlike a lofty tower in flames. On one sido showers of sparks were borne down with heavy clouds of smoke into the darkness below; on the other lay the mountain crater rilled with, strange shadows and overcast with a dull smoky glare. Crowds of spectators watched the burning of the pile, tiomo apparently a little disappointed at the premature lighting of the fire, others cheering lustily or shrieking wildly as each support fell sending up a shower of sparks. At 10 p.m. rain Ml, and at midnight nothing remained bir a ring of blackened poles, a heap of embers, and a cloud of Blowly rising steam. As seen from below the fire likewise presented a very fine spectacle. 'The night was misty, and the lighted stack burning at such an altitude was woll reflected on the low-lying storm-clouds. From directly below the mountain, where the flames were not visible, tho fire on the hill top gave the impression of a volcano in eruption.

Many Thought Peace Was Signed. ■ ■Tie premature burning of the stick, about which there had been considerable controversy, wae generally received as a good joke by the onlookers. Many thought, however, thiA official news of the signing of peace had been received, and that the lighting of the fire had been sanctioned by the committee. The building of the stack, which, when completed, was to have been 100 feet high, was commenced about a month ago, and would have beim completed in about two days in readiness for the news ov' the German signature to tho peace treaty, Five men were engaged on the structure, dragging the pine saplings and the building material from the surrounding districts. Tho financial vote was for £10). so this amount, together with £10, the estimated value of tackle, ladders, etc., borrowed for the work, is an absolute lews to the authorities.

Suggestion to Build Anothtr Bonfire. The Mayor of Mount Eden," Mr. ft Hudson, stated last evening that tho original intention was to light the fire with cordite from the top at ahout 7 p.m. on the fixed date, so that it would burn 'throughout the night. Ho suggested, however, that another bonfire should b« erected, and that a canvass should he made for subscriptions. He stated further that he had already received several offers of money and material. This is not tho first tinie that a similar incident has occurred in Auckland. When Lord Roberts captured Cronjc in the Boer war Mr. R. R. Hunt and the Hon. G. J. Garland-, M.L f C, collected just underfill) in Queen Street for a bonfire and fireworks display' on Mount Eden. The timber mills gave' materials for tho fire and carted t to the scene. Before the appointed time for the official lighting of the fire, however, larrikins set the pilo of timber ablaze.

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Bibliographic details

PREMATURE BONFIRE., New Zealand Herald, Volume LVI, Issue 17194, 23 June 1919

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PREMATURE BONFIRE. New Zealand Herald, Volume LVI, Issue 17194, 23 June 1919

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