Up to 16 firefighters spent more than two hours on Christmas Day battling a fire at a Whangarei timber mill that threatened to put hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of expensive timber up in smoke.

Whangarei Fire Service Senior Station Officer Brad Cunningham said firefighters were called to the Carter Holt Harvey Kiwi Timber Company yard in Union East St just after 9am on Christmas Day after a fire started in the yard's boiler room.

Mr Cunningham said a wall in the boiler room was "pretty much destroyed" by the flames, but "good luck" meant a neighbouring building containing many tonnes of expensive timber was saved.

"I think they'll have to rebuild the wall though," Mr Cunningham said.


He said the fire started in a wall in the boiler room, making it difficult for firefighters to get to the flames. Large sheets of extremely hot corrugated iron had to be ripped from the walls so water could be put inside to fight the flames. At its peak four fire appliances, each with four crew members on board, were at the scene.

Mr Cunningham said it was lucky that somebody passing the site spotted smoke and contacted the Fire Service straight away. Firefighters were there within minutes, which meant they could quickly get to work extinguishing the flames and preventing the fire from spreading to the neighbouring buildings.

"It was very lucky. If we hadn't got it quickly it would have spread to the neighbouring building and all that expensive timber would have gone up too."

He said two of the fire crews needed to use breathing apparatus to fight the fire and a lot of time was spent just getting to the flames through the wall.

Everybody was pleased that the situation did not get any worse, but the time spent at the site meant that the Whangarei Fire Station Christmas lunch for those working and their families had to be delayed a short time.