Strong wind drove John Wuts home early from Ocean Beach yesterday and on the way home heavy smoke made him fear for his life.

The Napier resident said he was having a pleasant day at the beach with his wife before they became one of the last people to drive on Waimarama Rd before fire closed it.

"The water was lovely but the wind came up something terrible - we got sandblasted really - so we decided to come home early - just as well we did when we did," he said.

"So we were driving along and with all that smoke I was getting worried about getting out of there - you see those scenes in Australia where people get burned to death.

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"Once we got over the Waimarama Rd bridge we could see the whole hillside was going up - the house as well.

"There was another house that was also under threat but the fire people seemed to manage to put a water break in there, so at least they saved that one on the right-hand side."

He said after watching several fire crews battle the blaze for about 20 minutes "it got too distressing" to watch.

"I said to me wife, let's go. There was nothing we could do.

"I don't know how they are going to put it out in this wind."

The award-winning photographer had his camera with him and shot video and took pictures used by Hawke's Bay Today.