If you saw helicopters with monsoon buckets but no smoke in sight, you weren't dreaming - it was all part of a rural fire service training exercise.

In the lead-up to what is expected to be a busy season for scrub and bush fires, Rotorua's rural firefighters simulated the sort of conditions where vegetation fires can break out.

The training session was held at the Linton Park Community Centre on Saturday, where waste gumtree timber had recently been removed.

The remaining fine material had been identified as similar to what can be found in areas where scrub fires are likely and was suitable for a training exercise.

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About 40 firefighters from Lake Okareka, Lake Tarawera and West Rotoiti, as well as the Rotorua Lakes Council rural fire services, took part in the training.

Rotorua Lakes Council sport and recreation manager Rob Pitkethley said rural firefighters and fire trucks were carrying out simulated firefighting activities "for a large fire area".

"Crews from all over the district [were there] undertaking pump training and using helicopters equipped with fire-suppression apparatus."

The council's rural fire zone manager Richard Horn said the simulation went well.

"It was a good practical training day which was used as a refresher on proper protocol as well as a way to prepare ourselves for the busy summer season."

Mr Horn said the training was based around preparedness and working with the equipment.

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"A lot of the training was about working safely with helicopters, filling the monsoon buckets and using the equipment that gets taken out to vegetation fires.

"There are differences between dealing with vegetation fires and structure fires because [fire] in the open has more ability to spread quickly and get out of control.

"The simulation was a great way to get ourselves ready for the busy fire period between December and the end of March."

How to prevent wildfires

* Check whether you're allowed to light an outdoor fire every time.

* Stay with the fire until it's out (put your hand in the fire to make sure it's out - seriously).

* Don't light a fire on a windy day.

* Make sure there is 3m clear around the whole area to be burned, and no overhanging plants or trees.

* Follow permit conditions.

* Have fire-fighting gear and supplies close by, especially a good water source.

- Department of Conservation