9 Jan 2017

Power restored after Mahanga scrub fire

11:18 am on 9 January 2017

Power has been restored to dozens of homes at Mahanga on the East Coast after a large scrub fire.

Several helicopters are being used to battle the scrub fire.

Several helicopter crews battled the scrub fire. Photo: RNZ / Liz Brown

Firefighters contained the blaze, north of the Mahia Peninsula, last night. Crews were dampening down hot spots.

An estimated 35 hectares of grassland and trees were destroyed along with a power pole.

RNZ reporter Elizabeth Brown, who was in the settlement, said the area looked completely charred.

Power was turned off about 6pm yesterday, she said.

That affected the settlement's water supply, as individual supplies were drawn by electic pump.

Power was restored late this morning.

'It was roaring and crackling'

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The fire got close to homes. Photo: RNZ / Liz Brown

The blaze started just before 3.30pm. Twelve fire trucks, from as far away as Napier, and six helicopters with monsoon buckets were brought in.

Residents said the fire razed a new house away from the settlement.

Ms Brown said residents prepared to leave when they started to smell smoke and saw large flames burning through nearby pasture.

She said the fire came within 10 metres of the settlement, but the wind changed before the flames crossed the main road.

"Otherwise I'm sure there would have been dozens of homes gone, including our bach."

Photo shows how close fire got to houses, with just the road in between.

Photo shows how close fire got to houses, with just the road in between. Photo: RNZ / Liz Brown

"You could see the flames and the sky was orange."

Ms Brown said the fire moved through an avocado orchard.

"Everyone started getting their stuff together and getting their cars and moving stuff out."

Ms Brown estimated about 20 of the 50 homes in the settlement were evacuated.

Auckland woman Sarah Young said locals began digging trenches, while others tried to douse the flames with buckets of water or cut down gorse and bush.

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Photo: RNZ / Liz Brown

She said the fire got so scary they had to leave.

"The fire was pretty loud, and honestly like the whole car filled with smoke and bits of ash flying into the car and it was like a black haze.

"It was so fast. It was roaring and crackling.

The helicopters were later stood down and residents who had been evacuated were allowed to return home.

A post on the Wairoa District Council's Facebook page said an evacuation centre was set up at the Gisborne Boy's Education Centre, near the Mahanga Marae.

Homes have been evacuated as crews battle the blaze.

Homes were evacuated as crews battled the blaze. Photo: RNZ / Liz Brown