A large fire visible from around Rotorua is a controlled burn-off that is expected to continue burning for the rest of the afternoon.
Firefighters and a helicopter rushed to the massive blaze, at Okere Falls, which a reporter at the scene described as having "flared up massively".
The large fire can be seen from the city, Ngongotaha and Hamurana with many people expressing concern about what was happening. There have been reports it can be seen from as far away as Papamoa.
Senior Seargeant Karl Konlechner from the Bay of Plenty Police District Command Centre said it was a controlled burn-off on Okere Rd at Okere Falls.
He said it was about 73 hectares in size.
Firefighters from around the region are at the fire, with a helicopter also now in the air.
But Fire Service Central Lakes Area Commander Graham Fuller said he believed the controlled burn was still under control.
He said the fire service had received "a fair few calls".
Mr Fuller said two fire appliances were on scene.
He said a helicopter which could be seen in the area was likely the one which had been used to light the fires.
The helicopter is carrying monsoon buckets.
Mr Fuller said the fire service had been advised of the fire before it was started.
Rotorua Lakes Council said in a Facebook post it was a controlled gorse and scrub fire and those reponsible for the burn-off had a safety team on standby in case it needed to be put out.
The post said the fire was expected to continue burning for the rest of the afternoon.
Reporter Kyra Dawson is heading towards the fire. She said it has just "flared up massively" and was now a huge black cloud of smoke with a lot of flames visible.
She said the fire was relatively close to houses.
She spoke to a nearby resident who said a notice had been put in his letterbox yesterday letting him know about the planned burn-off.
However another local resident, who did not have a letterbox, said she was unaware and was initially concerned until she was informed by neighbours what it was.
Tui King, who works on the seventh floor of Hinemoa House on Hinemoa St in the CBD, said she and a co-worker saw two different coloured plumes of smoke rise quickly from across Lake Rotorua toward Lake Rotoiti.
She said it did not look like a fire, but more like two explosions, that together formed a large plume of white smoke.
"It looked like it might be a massive fire, or even a geothermal explosion," she said.
Reporter Matthew Martin went to the top of the building for a better view.
He said he saw a huge white cloud of smoke before large flames appeared that then formed a large black cloud of smoke and flames.
"I saw flames appearing from within the cloud of smoke. It did look like it was coming from two distinct points side by side.
"It looked like it was going to get a lot bigger before it sort of calmed down a bit.
"But there was a hell of a lot of smoke and it certainly did not look like it was a controlled burn-off," he said.
Victoria Finch said she could see smoke from her home in Ngongotaha. She said the Ngongotaha Fire siren was also sounding.
People from around Rotorua have been sharing their photos on the Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page.
One said: "This makes me a bit angry!! You would think they would somehow let the home owners in the area know about it!!! I nearly had a heart attack I live in Tikitere. Hope it's still controlled because I can hear a hell of a lot of sirens."
Another posted: "wtf? gosh hope its under control..."
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