People are being evacuated as the Whitianga fire has now grown to 70ha.

The blaze broke out in a rural area south of the Coromandel township early yesterday evening, and soon engulfed whole hillsides, tearing through four homes at deadly speed.

Fire Service incident controller Peter Smith said they would be evacuating residents on Comers Rd before 9.30pm. He was worried that the wind would shift overnight and push the fire onto properties.

Smith had already seen a few carloads of people self-evacuate the area.

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"They've been told up there to gather their possessions and be ready to get out."

Smith implied that getting the fire under control was a bit touch and go. Crew had more precisely mapped the fire this afternoon in helicopters and found it had stretched to 70 hectares.

"We'd like to think we've got it under control, but it needs more work."

Overnight the helicopters and most of the ground crews would be stood down. One crew and the command centre would monitor the fire until daybreak.

"We won't be putting crew into the burnt-out area. It's dark, it's steep and we don't know what the windshifts will do. It could flare up a hotspot and we can't see behind us.

"If we see any structure in danger we'll conduct an external defence and see how we go."

Thames Valley principal rural fire officer Paul Shaw in front of a house that was destroyed by fire in Whitianga. Photo / Belinda Feek
Thames Valley principal rural fire officer Paul Shaw in front of a house that was destroyed by fire in Whitianga. Photo / Belinda Feek

Twenty-six people were evacuated last night, among them members of the historic Wilderland Sustainable Community.

By this morning, all that remained of the hillside commune - an icon of Coromandel for more than 50 years - was a mess of burnt rubble and torn corrugated iron.

The entry sign to the Comers Rd settlement somehow stood unscathed among the blackened skeletons of pines, gums and kanuka.

Shattered Wilderland residents were too upset to speak today, but issued a statement vowing that their community would recover.