Two serious fires in two days - one of which left a man needing hospital treatment for burns - were caused by people burning rubbish in long grass, the Far North's rural fire boss says.

It's prompted a call for people to respect the Far North's restricted fire season. All fires require a permit which will be issued at the discretion of the rural fire officer.

On Friday afternoon firefighters from Broadwood, Kaitaia and Ahipara battled to save a house close to a bush fire on West Coast Rd, about 3km east of Mitimiti in North Hokianga.

Native bush and scrub was burning fiercely when fire-fighters reached the remote location about 1.30pm.


Kaitaia Fire Brigade senior station officer Ross Beddows said all four fire engines arrived at the same time but a helicopter using a monsoon bucket, which was already at work when ground crews arrived, saved the day. Four helicopters - two each from Paihia and Whangarei - were called out but only two were needed.

Ground crews secured the perimeter of the fire nearest the house and left the bush to the helicopter. Fire engines carted water from a creek about 1km away while a digger was used to cut a fire break. Firefighters spent more than six hours at the scene.

A day earlier a small rubbish fire spread through kikuyu and ignited a fisherman's shed at Motukaraka, about 1km west of the Kohukohu ferry landing.

Four fire engines from Kohukohu, Okaihau and Kaitaia responded, along with a group of local residents, when the alarm was raised about 3.45pm.

Mr Beddows said Fire Service volunteer support officer Colin Kitchen was working in Rawene at the time. Seeing the smoke from the grass fire, he boarded the ferry but by the time he arrived the blaze had spread to a large shed owned by fisherman Malcolm Pinkney. He and Mr Pinkney managed to drag a boat and equipment out of the shed.

Mr Pinkney was later taken to Rawene Hospital suffering burns while Mr Kitchen went to Kohukohu fire station, where a small crew had assembled but had no driver. He returned at the wheel of the fire engine.

Mr Beddows praised the small group that tackled the fire by pumping water from a nearby drain, holding the fire back for 45 minutes until a helicopter and a full crew from Okaihau arrived.

Okaihau firefighters used breathing apparatus to attack the fire and saved one end of the building, which housed the freezers and chiller, from total destruction. The helicopter worked with a monsoon bucket filled in the harbour while the Kaitaia appliances ferried water from Kohukohu fire station's tanks.

Northern principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said the fires started in the same way.

"Both were caused by people taking their rubbish outside and setting fire to it in long grass. That's probably the cause of 95 per cent of the fires we have in Northland."

The Kohukohu blaze covered an area of about 200sq m and the Mitimiti fire about 1000sq m, but only because of a quick response by helicopters. The house was not directly threatened but a large forestry block was at risk.

The Fire Authority was considering recovering its costs from the people responsible but there were mitigating circumstances in both cases, Mr Taylor said.