Residents of Kaimaumau in the Far North have been evacuated as a huge scrub fire threatens their homes for a second time.
The order to evacuate came from Fire and Emergency NZ incident controller John Sutton just after 2pm today.
He instructed the settlement's roughly 30 families to leave immediately with a change of clothing and assemble at Waiharara School on State Highway 1.
One firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation suffered during this afternoon's flare-up.
He was also taken to the evacuation centre where he was treated by St John Ambulance medics
The school had previously been used as a base for helicopter firefighting operations.
The helicopter base is now being shifted back to a farm off Srhoj Rd where the choppers operated from in the first days of the fire.
The fire started on December 18 and by Boxing Day had swept through 2360ha of scrub and wetland, most of it conservation land.
The blaze had been contained and largely under control until today.
High temperatures and wind shifts reportedly fanned flare-ups both on the northern flank and in the south near the village.
Three helicopters had been assisting ground crews fighting the blaze in recent days — down from 11 at the start — but reinforcements arriving from around Northland since 2pm today have boosted that number to six.
Two more choppers are on standby and ready to head to Kaimaumau.
Sutton said crews had been back-burning within the containment lines near Kaimaumau village this morning but a wind change this afternoon had pushed the fire across the firebreak.
The village had been evacuated as a precaution and firefighters were in place to protect homes and other structures.
Residents were first evacuated on the night of December 19 and allowed to return three days later.
About 50 vehicles are parked on the grounds of Waiharara School this afternoon where evacuees are doing their best to stay cool.
Temperatures are high and a strong wind is blowing but the atmosphere is calm.
The evacuees include Murray and Liz Henderson, who returned home from the Bay of Plenty on Boxing Day.
Murray Henderson said they missed the first phase of the fire but were impressed by the professionalism shown by emergency services during today's evacuation.
''This is a difficult situation but everything's very organised, which is great,'' he said.
''Everyone involved has been very calm and collected which helps people not to stress. We have some friends we can stay with overnight if need be, so we'll probably go there tonight.''
He hoped it wouldn't be like a similar fire about 10 years ago which burned for several weeks.
''But everything seems under control and the briefings have been clear and consistent, so we're not too worried.''
A positive which had come out of the fire was that it had brought the community together, he said.
This morning FENZ closed Kaimaumau Rd and urged the public to stay away from beaches in the area.
East Beach, on the shore of Rangaunu Harbour, is a popular fishing and recreation area accessed via Kaimaumau settlement.
Sutton stressed the fire ground, including the adjoining beach, was off limits to residents and visitors alike.
''This is an active fire and we cannot ensure the safety of any member of the public who chooses to go in there," he said.
As well as fire, hazards in the area included fire-damaged trees, deep holes left by gumdiggers, peat fires burning underground, and wetland.
''We ask everyone in the Kaimaumau, Waiharara and Houhora areas to please think about the safety of their whānau and friends, and stay well away from the fireground. Fires are dynamic and the situation can change very quickly,'' he said.
The Kaimaumau wetland is — or was — Northland's largest surviving wetland and one of the region's most significant in terms of the threatened species such as geckos, native orchids and birds that called it home.
Even before the latest flare-up Forest & Bird Northland conservation manager Dean Baigent-Mercer called the fire ''a tragedy on a national scale''.
Fires have occurred naturally in the peat swamp for millennia but their increasing frequency has conservations worried.
One of the rarest species found in the wetland is the Australasian bittern, a bird with the same conservation status as the kākāpō.
The fire is believed to have been started by a burnoff on Norton Rd but an official investigation has yet to be completed.