''Gumption and know-how'' by two quick-thinking young men has been credited with saving a marae wharekai at Mangamuka in the Far North.

Firefighters were called to Ngāpuhi Marae, near State Highway 1 south of the Mangamuka Ranges, about 12.30am on Sunday when it was reported the kitchen roof was on fire and attempts to douse the flames had failed.

Mangamuka is more than 30km from the nearest fire station, at Ōkaihau, so firefighters feared the worst.

Extra appliances were dispatched from Kaitaia and Kohukohu with a water tanker sent from Kerikeri.

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When they arrived, however, Ōkaihau fire chief Andrew Graham said the fire was already out, thanks to two young men who had been staying overnight in the adjacent wharenui for a tangi.

He believed the fire had started when heat from the chimney of a woodburner, which had been used for heating, ignited building paper in the kitchen ceiling. The flames then flashed through the ceiling space.

''Luckily there were two young guys with a bit of gumption and know-how. They pulled the ceiling down and put it out before we arrived.''

Damage was minimal due to their quick action, Graham said.

Mangamuka is, unfortunately, no stranger to serious fires.

In 2015 the headquarters of Tautoko FM, a pioneering iwi radio station, were destroyed at nearby Mangamuka Bridge. The studio, broadcast equipment, offices and a trove of documents relating to Treaty claims research were lost.