Homes are threatened, a shop has been gutted and a police investigation has been launched after suspected arson attacks sparked a huge scrub fire in Piha.
Plumes of smoke can be seen billowing into the sky above the coastal settlement this morning, after a trio of suspicious fires overnight.
Nearly 100 firefighters are battling to control the blaze in the hills above Piha, with one home evacuated and others on standby.
Weary fire personnel have this morning been stood down and reinforcements brought in to take their place.
A police investigation has also been launched into the fires, the latest in a spate of suspected arson attacks on the settlement that have left locals on edge.
Residents in the area described ash falling into their yards and hearing the busy activity of firefighters and choppers battling the blazes which have engulfed 7ha of scrub and gutted an iconic beachfront cafe.
NZ Fire Service's Craig Monrad at the control centre set up by the beach described the local fish and chip shop as "totalled".
"On the other side of that wall there's not much left."
One local woman, Julie, understood the owners of the fish and chip shop were still away on holiday.
She said the shop, a much loved local addition to the beach, would be missed while it was out of action.
She said it was just lucky the fire had happened in winter - not in the peak summer season.
"God, if it had happened then...it would have been worse."
She said the recent spate of suspicious fires was making the community "angry", "especially now that it's hurt one of our local businesses".
Another Piha local said she had a sleepless night with all the noise of the engines driving past and the flashing lights.
"We didn't see much as it was in the wee dark hours.
"I'll be going back to have a nap shortly."
The local woman, who didn't want to be named, said it was devastating to hear about the local store burning down.
"It would be devastating for anyone."
She said it was a popular little spot for locals and visitors alike.
"It's an icon really, a bit like Lion Rock."
She said it was all about the atmosphere.
"You go to get fish and chips, or an ice-cream and go down to the beach."
The woman, who lived a walking distance away from the takeaway store, said things could have been worse.
"We were lucky there wasn't much wind. The wind is building now, but it was calm overnight."
Another woman, who owned a bach in the area, said she'd been concerned about flying ash.
She said with many of the houses situated amidst the foliage, one stray spark could wreak havoc.
"It is a bit of a worry, there is a lot of flammable foliage."
Fire incident controller Rory Renwick said investigators were still looking into the cause of the scrub fires.
However, he indicated they were suspicious.
"It is unusual to have to have two fires pop up in the middle of nowhere - multiple fires in the middle of the night.
"So it is under investigation."
He confirmed one house had been evacuated in the early hours as a "precaution", but said the fire was now well back from most properties.
Renwick said fighting the fires had been challenging due to their location in a couple of tight spots.
"It was most intense before daylight. We got the choppers in for the tight spots and that's when we got the upper hand."
He said crew were now keeping the fire at bay, reduced in size from earlier reports of seven hectares to just 4.5.
In a statement Waitemata Police said they were investigating following a number of fires in Piha today.
Emergency services were called to a fire on Marine Parade South about 1.35am.
"That fire is now out and scene guards are situated at Adey's Place near Piha Surf Club.
"A scene examination will be conducted later today."
Detective Inspector John Sutton said fire services were still battling two scrub fires nearby at the Tasman Lookout and at The Gap.
"We are aware that there have been a number of reports of suspicious fires in the area this week and are focused on apprehending those responsible.
"We are treating this fire as unexplained and ask residents to be vigilant about reporting any suspicious behaviour."
Police would be increasing patrols in the Piha area today and overnight.
"Arson is a serious crime and there is potential for an innocent member of the public to be seriously harmed if this continues."
Waitemata's Criminal Investigations Branch would be investigating.
There are now 90 firefighters, a number of whom have been working throughout the night, battling the fire.
Helicopters can be seen flying above back and forth above the beach.
Fire engines are stationed in about three different spots around Piha, with the main control centre in front of the surf club.
North Fire Communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said the scrub fire at the Tasman lookout had been contained, but crew remained there dampening the hot spots.
He said the second larger one was still ablaze and crew were working to contain it.
At least one home was evacuated, after the fire broke out in the early hours of this morning. Two other homeowners have been given advice about evacuation and about 20 properties, within a 1km radius of the blaze, are at risk.
One local told the Herald it had been a bit worrying seeing the flames and smoke overnight.
"Our yard is smattered with ash, so it has been a huge blaze.
"We are within a kilometre of the surf club and surrounded by trees, so have cause for concern too."
Another who'd also had a worrying night watching the flames thanked the fire crew for their effort.
She posted on Facebook about the smell of the fire and hearing it flaring in the vegetation. Her son was fighting the fire.
"What you can't smell is the fire, the cracking and falling of branches or hear the voices of the brave volunteers fighting the fire."
"I'm awake, because A - I can see the fire. B- my son is one of those volunteers and I won't sleep until he's back home. Thanks to this firestarter my son is fighting the biggest fire he's seen in six years."
Seventeen crew and two helicopters were tasked with battling the large blaze, which started after another suspicious fire in the fish and chip shop next to the Piha Surf Life Saving Club.
Two others were started in the scrub as crew extinguished the fire in the popular beachfront shop.
Adey's Place manager Kim Morris told Fairfax he had just arrived back in Piha about 1.30am when fire sirens sounded and he began receiving messages from friends and customers.
He had spent the night watching the fire move up the hillside.
"You could just see the glow, just lighting up the sky from the main fire."
Morris was due to survey the damage to his store this morning.
"I hear the whole inside's pretty much gone," he told Fairfax. "It's a very old building. A fire wouldn't take long - 10 minutes, 15 minutes - and it would destroy it just like that."
Morris said the spate of suspicious fires had rattled the Piha community.
"There's a lot of fires putting people's lives in danger, and there's a lot more to consider than just [Adey's]," he told Fairfax.
"I'm pretty rattled, it's all pretty scary and I hope everyone's okay. I hope not too much damage is done.
The Fire Service indicated the fires appeared suspicious.
Crew have so far managed to contain an area of fire along the Tasman Lookout.
This morning, one helicopter went in at first light to dump water on the two fires burning in separate areas of scrub. Another one followed shortly after to help with the flames.
North Fire Communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said the priority had been to protect properties.
"The fire itself is about 1km away from the nearest structures, and at least one house has been evacuated."
The spate of fires, overnight, follows a number of suspected arsons in recent weeks at the beachside settlement.
A police guard was at the scene of the latest fires and a specialist fire investigator was expected to return at 10am to investigate what sparked them.
A multi-agency command point had been established in the South Piha car park next to the surf club.
The Fire Service said ambulances were also on standby as a precaution for firefighters.
Anyone who witnessed any suspicious behaviour in the area prior to the fires is asked to contact Police.
Alternatively, information could be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.