Homes are threatened and more than two dozen people have had to flee an enormous bushfire thst has destroyed a well-known Coromandel sustainable farming community.
The explosive bush fire south of Whitianga has already burned six homes to the ground and come close to destroying others.
The blaze, which has spread to 100ha over the past 12 hours, has been fuelled by strong south-westerly winds.
Houses, buildings and orchards at the Wilderland Sustainable Community on the Whitianga Estuary were destroyed overnight.
The fire has reached the water's edge and is now burning back on itself.
The Thames-Coromandel District Council says 26 people were evacuated from their homes overnight and are now sheltering locally.
Thames Valley Rural Fire Authority principal officer Paul Shaw said an excavator was being brought in to create fire breaks to save six Comers Rd homes threatened by the fire.
Shaw said the fire, which started around 5pm yesterday, was now under control but because of the difficult terrain and tinder-dry conditions it was still a challenge to fire crews.
Three helicopters were attacking the blaze with monsoon buckets and crews from around the region, including two from the Department of Conservation, had been drafted in this morning.
Shaw said firefighters could only watch as the Wilderland community burned to the ground.
"Unfortunately when it got dark last night we had to stop fighting the fire with the very dry and volatile fuels in there."
It was also too dangerous for helicopters to tackle the blaze because of the fear of flying into overhead powerlines.
This morning members of the hillside community were seeking refuge at a nearby campground.
Fire Service northern shift manager Colin Underdown said ground crews monitored the fire overnight as homes came perilously close to burning.
Six Fire Service crews, several rural brigades and three helicopters battled the blaze until nightfall.
Underdown said the fire was headed up a valley, fanned by strong winds. It was burning across a 500m front.
The fire, which was burning on a peninsula, had taken a dire turn after burning to the water's edge before coming back on itself and burning in the opposite direction.
Ash the size of cherry tomatoes has been raining down on residents as far away as Cooks Beach.
The Thames-Coromandel District Council said people living on Comers Rd, including Wilderland, had been evacuated and everyone accounted for.
Council spokeswoman Rebekah Duffin said those forced out of their homes were staying with friends and relatives.
Two more homes had gone up in flames overnight as well as the sustainable farm community.
She said the destruction of the Wilderland farm would be a huge blow to the area.
"Wilderland has been destroyed. There's nothing left basically."
Shattered members of the community had taken refuge in the nearby Riverglen Holiday Park and Campground overnight.
Every available fire crew throughout the region was responding to the blaze, including Department of Conservation firefighters.
"It looks like we're in the for the long haul but it's a pretty significant fire," she said.
"There's a long way to go before the fire will be out."
Meanwhile the local community was rallying to help those who had lost everything, taking in pets and providing baking for those fighting the fire.
Roads remained opened throughout the district except for Comers Rd, which was restricted to emergency service vehicles fighting the fire.
Residents from neighbouring coastal townships reported smoke billowing across the district.
Cooks Beach resident Kelly Picot said ash the size of cherry tomatoes was falling from the sky.
Nearby resident Thomas Everth described the massive fire as "explosive".
"Flames stretch 1km. It doesn't look like choppers are making much difference."
Everth said there were strong winds at present. "It's hot and dry, and windy. It's such a shame.
"It's a wonderful area with big trees. There's a few lifestyle properties that are pretty close to the fire."
Cassidy Dawson-Tobich said the fire was immense.
"It's pretty huge. The whole hillside is lit up. There's still little explosions happening."