The death one year ago of two Far North men in a devastating fire is being remembered on the Karikari Peninsula today.
Pilot John "Prickles" de Ridder, of Kerikeri, and Department of Conservation (DoC) ranger William Macrae, of Awanui, died when their helicopter crashed into Karikari Bay.
They had been surveying a major fire when they were sent on a seach and rescue mission for five people trapped on a beach between the sea and the advancing flames. The five eventually managed to escape in a dinghy and were picked up by a fishing boat.
Family members, friends, colleagues and firefighters were due to gather on the peninsula this morning to remember Mr Macrae and Mr de Ridder.
Cape Karikari residents, including some of those affected by the fire, plan to meet them and guide them to the point closest to the crash site.
DoC Kaitaia spokeswoman Carolyn Smith said they would acknowledge and celebrate the lives of Mr Macrae and Mr de Ridder, and their contribution to the Far North.
Among those at the ceremony will be the men's workmates from Salt Air and the DoC, Mr Macrae's widow, Jenny Larson, and Mr de Ridder's widow, Carol.
Also coming are Mr de Ridder's daughter Helen with husband Peter and children Lily and Reef from Wanganui, and son Logan with daughter Tahlia from Haast. Their airfares to Northland for the commemoration were paid for by public donations to a mayoral fund set up to benefit the men's families.
Both men received posthumous citizen's awards from the Far North District Council in recognition of their service to the district in conservation, firefighting and many other areas.
The November 30, 2011 blaze, which also destroyed at least two homes, was just one of 14 suspicious fires on the peninsula in the preceding 18 months.
Police promised a thorough investigation but as yet no one has been arrested. A code of silence in some communities is believed to have hampered the search for the arsonist.
Principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said it was disappointing the person who lit the fire had not been brought to justice, but said the Northern Rural Fire Authority was determined to do what it could to prevent fires claiming any other lives.