The army may get a bill of up to $200,000 for causing the large scrub fire in West Melton on Wednesday.
Selwyn District Council Principal Rural Fire Officer Wilson Brown told The Star yesterday it had been found that the army was responsible for the fire during a live firing exercise at the Burnham Military Training Area.
The exercise included hand grenade training.
Sixty firefighters, six helicopters with monsoon buckets, 18 ground-based appliances and 40 police staff responded to the incident which covered an area about 1500ha.
Mr Brown said the cost of fighting the fire would be about $200,000 when it was all tallied up.
"Every fire incurs a cost and that cost has to be paid for. The costs are going to be recovered from this fire," he said.
Burnham Military Camp spokeswoman Zen Gregor said a Court of Inquiry will be conducted into the fire at the West Melton Rifle Range and there would be no further comment until it is completed.
The camp would not respond to questions from The Star about the cause of the fire and whether it would pay for it.
The Star inquiries yesterday showed helicopters with a monsoon cost between $1500 to $3000 an hour. They were in the air on Wednesday for between four and six hours. Fire appliances cost $1000 an hour and there is extra charges for the crew which vary depending how many are staffing an appliance.
Fire appliances from Kirwee, Darfield, Rolleston, Leeston, Hororata, Lincoln, Burnham, Harewood and Addington attended the fire.
A Fire Service spokesman said firefighters remained on scene for 24 hours dampening down hot spots after the blaze was contained about 5pm on Wednesday.
The fire was the latest of a series in tinder-dry Canterbury, and fire fighters are on red alert throughout the region.
One of the key questions fire chiefs will be asking is why a live firing exercise was being held in such conditions by military personnel.
Meanwhile, police are also investigating the circumstances and cause of the fire and it is possible the army could be charged with arson if police believe they were reckless.
Said Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald: "The charge of arson is available to these matters if the element of recklessness can be proven.
"There is nothing, at this stage, to suggest that defence have been reckless. Police understand that they had a fire appliance on site in case of a spark, as they recognised the risk."
Air Force in gun, page 5