As if saving lives at sea wasn't enough, alert surf lifeguards at Ahipara helped avert an emergency on land when they saw a scrub fire was threatening homes.

Ahipara fire chief Dave Ross, who is also the vice president of Far North Surf Rescue, said two paid lifeguards on duty at Ahipara noticed a blaze in dry scrub on the other side of Foreshore Rd about 1.20pm on Monday.

They immediately radioed the marine rescue centre, asking the operator to call Fire and Emergency NZ, then rushed to alert people whose homes were in the path of the flames.

At least six people were evacuated from two houses.


The local fire brigade arrived about 12 minutes later to put out the blaze with another appliance and a tanker as a backup from Kaitaia.

Ross said the fire burnt through about 20m of pampas and grass and came to within 25m of the nearest house.

''It wouldn't have taken much longer ... It had just got into a stand of bamboo and was heading uphill. It's tinder dry out here.''

The fire started when sparks from an angle grinder, being used by someone doing up a bach, ignited nearby foliage.

Ross was pleased the lifeguards weren't just keeping watch on the water.

''It's good they're diligent and keeping an eye out.''