Fire officials are urging people to take fire restrictions seriously after a large grass fire in Te Puna caused major danger to the community.

The fire started on Pitau Rd in Te Puna about 3pm yesterday. At its peak, the grass fire was 100m by 100m and was threatening a nearby property.

Fire and Emergency area commander for Bay of Plenty Kevin Cowper said the blaze was caused by someone burning an incinerator while there was a total fire ban in place.

He said without the quick action of the fire brigade the fire could have threatened a church, four houses, a kohanga reo and large scrub patch.


"It all had potential."

Cowper said Fire and Emergency NZ had "good reason" to put a fire ban in place and did not take the decision lately.

Assessment of dry conditions and the Fire Weather Indices proved that it would be dangerous to light up anywhere at the moment, he said.

Bay of Plenty fire crews had bolstered their response to small fires and were sending three crews to every fire as they could get out of control quickly with current conditions, he said.

"People really need to be aware".

He said people should not get a false sense of security after the brief rain on the weekend as it had "done very little" for fire conditions.

"We need at least 150mm to 200mm of consistent rain."

Fire and Emergency NZ would inform people when they were able to light up again.