Firefighters were last night hoping to fully contain Northland's biggest fire so far this summer before the forecast onset of extreme fire conditions this weekend.
As of yesterday the Pipiwai Rd fire had razed just under 180ha of young pine forest. It was being fought by six helicopters using monsoon buckets and about 65 forestry and Department of Conservation workers on the ground.
Three bulldozers and two diggers were cutting fire breaks around the perimeter.
On Thursday night three homes on Pipiwai Rd were evacuated but as of yesterday none had been damaged.
The fire's isolated location, about midway between Whangārei and Kaikohe, meant relatively few homes were threatened, but in terms of area it easily eclipses the other big blazes so far this summer.
December's fire in Ahipara, which forced the evacuation of up to 100 homes, covered 56ha, while last week's Rawene fire burnt 10ha.
Fire and Emergency NZ liaison officer John Booth said the blaze, which had started in one- and two-year-old pines about 3.30pm on Thursday, was 95 per cent contained by yesterday evening.
The only place it wasn't yet under control was on the western flank where it had got into large pine trees which were threatening to fall on to Pipiwai Rd.
The road was closed while forestry contractors worked to douse the flames and fell the unstable trees, a job further complicated by power lines.
Helicopters were taking water from local streams but the area was so parched many had dried up during the day, forcing the choppers to fly ever further to find water.
The fire's point of origin had been identified but an investigation was continuing to find out how it had started.
Booth said FENZ staff running the operation had come up from Auckland to give weary Northland fire bosses a break.
He expected forestry crews would be dampening down hot spots all weekend. Significant rain would be needed to fully extinguish the blaze, he said.
No further evacuations were expected unless the fire jumped Pipiwai Rd.
Incident controller Geoff Purcell said FENZ was staying in touch with residents and would notify them if risks increased.
''We're also encouraging people living nearby to keep their windows closed and stay inside to avoid the smoke.''
FENZ was also working closely with local iwi.
Iwi liaison officer Albert Cash said Ngāti Hine, as part of the incident management team, was providing advice on any areas of concern or cultural significance.
The iwi had also opened up Matawaia Marae, just north of the fire, to host the evacuees while Tau Henare Marae, at Pipiwai, was making sure the firefighters didn't go hungry.
Volunteers from Kawakawa Fire Brigade were the first to arrive on Thursday, followed by firefighters from Kamo, Hikurangi, Towai, Whangārei, Kerikeri and Kaikohe. Many weary volunteers only got home to bed at 5am on Friday.
A total fire ban has been in place across Northland since December 30.
With the fire danger expected to hit extreme levels FENZ is also urging Northlanders to take care with any activities that can generate sparks.