‘Pretty horrendous’: Fire near Ahipara spreads; Far North Mayor fears for homes as 40 properties evacuated

Dozens of residents have been evacuated from their homes tonight as a fire burns through scrub in the Far North, with fears homes could be destroyed by the blaze if winds continue.

The fire started about 5.45pm in Ahipara Gumfields Historic Reserve and quickly spread through dry scrub despite the best efforts of multiple crews and six helicopters.

Residents reported seeing flames as high as 40m as the blaze crept through scrub and towards homes.

About 40 properties on Reef View and Wharo Way were evacuated by police as a safety precaution.

Mayor John Carter tonight told the Herald helicopters could only work until dark and it was difficult to know what the fire would do overnight. If the wind kept pushing the flames towards the village, there was a risk homes could be destroyed.

He described the scene as “pretty horrendous” and said some residents were apprehensive about leaving their homes.

Carter said two evacuation centres were being set up at the local rugby club and Marae to help anyone in need.

Dave Clark, who has a section on Wharo Way, said firefighters made sure everyone was removed from the area.

The fire was burning towards the top of the hill behind them but it appeared to be spreading downwards towards the coast.

Clark described the fire, which was mostly burning through native bush, as massive and said he had never seen anything like it before.

Clark said helicopters were picking up water from the ocean and dumping it on the fire. He said there hadn’t been much rain in the area recently and conditions were pretty dry.

Another resident, Justin Edgecombe, said the fire was being fuelled by strong winds.

“It’s a massive, big scrub fire coming over the hill from behind [Ahipara],” he told the Herald.

“Where I was looking at it, I was a long away but the flames looked likely there were probably 30m, 40m in the air.”

Local resident Teuri Reihana, who filmed the fire from the beach earlier in the evening, said smoke from the fire was “extremely thick”.

“It’s one of the biggest fires I have seen up here.

“It was so thick you couldn’t see the mountain which was only 400m away.”

Reihana said it showed no signs of slowing down and remained visible later in the evening.

“I live two kilometres away and I can see the flames clearly from my house.”

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