Bills totalling thousands of dollars have been sent out to Northlanders breaching the fire ban as authorities try to change attitudes by hitting offenders in their back pockets.
Northern principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said he was ''taking no prisoners'' this year.
''People's attitudes need to change, and we're going to do it by hitting them in the wallet. I just don't see why other ratepayers should carry the costs of people acting irresponsibly.''
''The situation we had at Karikari, where two lives and a number of structures were lost, is going to happen again unless Northlanders wake up and change their attitudes to fire,'' he said.
The warning comes as the likely cost of this week's fire on Kaipara's Pouto Peninsula climbs into six figures.
Mr Taylor said the four helicopters alone would cost $86,000 a day, assuming they were flying only eight hours a day. The real cost was likely to be much higher and did not include paying firefighters on the ground, lost trees and the loss of future employment.
The fire authority was hitting back by invoicing anyone whose unpermitted fire had to be put out, and working with police to identify and prosecute arsonists.
On Wednesday a landowner at Kerikeri's Kapiro Rd was billed $1600, the cost of extinguishing a January 6 fire; last week Wainui Bay residents were invoiced $500 and $700 for illegal fires on December 10. A Te Tii woman who lit a pile of grass clippings on Monday, starting a fire that threatened a nearby house, would also be billed.
The cost of fighting rural fires is initially paid by district councils, in other words ratepayers. Most, but not all, is refunded by the National Rural Fire Authority, which is funded by taxpayers and insurance levies.
''People need to understand the cost of fighting fires comes straight out of their pockets. It's just so infuriating.''
Fire restrictions have been in force in the Far North since December 10, and in Whangarei and Kaipara since January 18.