A scrub fire north of Kaitaia is believed to have been started by a preschool child playing with matches.

Northern principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said about a hectare of scrub at Motutangi, south of Pukenui, burned on Friday afternoon before ground crews and helicopters got the blaze under control.

A ground crew was still there yesterday checking for hotspots.

Kaitaia's chief fire officer, Colin Kitchen, said the property owner was lucky to still have a house.

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The brigade had dispatched one appliance and a water tanker, along with two appliances from Houhora, tankers from Mangonui and Karikari, and two helicopters.

Mr Taylor said three helicopters had been requested, but only two were used.

Mr Kitchen said the scene had initially been somewhat confused because of huge quantities of smoke.

Getting there hadn't been easy either because the appliance Mr Kitchen was driving was stuck behind a horse truck for several kilometres north of Waiharara, at a maximum speed of about 70km/h, before he could get past.

"This sort of thing isn't unusual," he said.

"Drivers see the lights and hear the sirens but some try to outrun us. That's never a good idea."

The driver of the truck had had numerous opportunities to pull over so the appliance could get past, he added.

Northland is so dry that a total fire ban has been put in place. That means lighting any fire is illegal across the region.

The total ban, which includes Department of Conservation land, is in place until further notice. Anyone found responsible for causing unlawful fires can be convicted and subject to a term of imprisonment.

Information could be found at www.northernrfa.org.nz.