A Central Hawke's Bay dairy farmer had better things to do on a hot Sunday than sit and watch his hay go up in smoke.

But watching the demise was the only option yesterday after fire authorities decided it was beyond saving and there was no risk to other property after the five-bay open-sided shed had been burning for more than three hours.

Firefighters from four volunteer brigades went to the scene off Taylor Rd, south of Ongaonga, after the alarm was raised just before 6am.

Ongaonga chief Tom Taylor said it was flaming fiercely and his crew, joined by the Tikokino brigade, set about saving a tractor and machinery, before fighting the fire with water ferried by two tankers which had come from Otane and Waipawa.


The tractor was then used to help lift hay out of the shed, but by mid-morning, with the damage done and hay smouldering and flaring, authorities had agreed there was little or no risk to other property and there was little point tying-up the resources for the rest of the day.

It was agreed the farmer, who had come from another property at least 20km away, would monitor the fire, while volunteer fire chief Taylor also returned during the afternoon.

The farmer said from the scene he was particularly thankful to firefighters who saved the tractor and other items from the shed, which was estimated to have stored about 180 bales of hay.

The heat had already melted flashing light mounts, a rear view mirror and stickers on the side of the tractor by the time it and a seed drill were hauled clear. It was initially unable to be started because the farmer had the battery disconnected.

"They did very well," he said, believing it would have otherwise been only a few moments before the tractor, worth about $40,000 "second-hand" was also lost in the blaze. He didn't relish sitting out the rest of the afternoon, saying the dawn call "certainly ruined my day."

Central Hawke's Bay District Council emergency management and rural fire officer Bruce Kitto, who attended, believed the fire was started by combustion. He said the rural fire risk in the area was not yet significant, but consideration may be given this week to starting a restricted fire season.

Two grass fires on a State Highway 2 property near Takapau were both thought to have started from sparks caused by machinery, which Mr Kitto said meant conditions are drier.