Mount Maunganui holiday makers Nancy and Gord Dooley thought the area was being invaded when they woke to the sound of helicopters early yesterday.

It is the second time the couple from Canada, have been holidaying in Mount Maunganui when a fire has broken out on the mountain.

They were staying at the Mount in 2003 when a blaze destroyed 16ha of vegetation - much of it planted by the local community following another fire in 1997.

In 2003 the pair were evacuated from their accommodation because of the thick smoke in the area. "It was a huge, huge fire," Mrs Dooley said.

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The couple come back every year and are always amazed at how quickly the plant life on Mauao regenerates.

When Mrs Dooley, who was staying in the Twin Towers, woke yesterday morning she thought the helicopters used to extinguish the fire were being used in a medical emergency.

"But then they went on, and on, so we thought no, this is serious."

Camper Holly Madigan was also holidaying in Mount Maunganui when the 2003 fire broke out.

"I could just see flames coming," she said of yesterday's blaze.

That was all she could see after her brothers woke her up and told her Mauao was on fire.

The family were camping at the Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park, as they do every year, when the fire started.

"It was hard to know exactly what was happening because of the wind and how bad it could spread," she said.

Mt Maunganui on fire. Photo / George Novak, Bay of Plenty Times
Mt Maunganui on fire. Photo / George Novak, Bay of Plenty Times

Ms Madigan said she was not scared for her safety but was sad another fire had erupted at one of her favourite holiday spots.

"There are so many regulars who come each year, so when we saw it we were like 'no, not again'," she said.

The camp ground was buzzing with campers watching as firefighters cordoned off the area, and started to take control of the blaze early on Thursday morning.

"I probably got to sleep about 2.30am and then got woken up again at 5.30am."

"Others hadn't slept."

"It was hard to go back to sleep after you know it's still on fire," she said.