A major fire at Rawene could take as long two weeks to put out, a Northland fire boss says.
With rain expected in South Hokianga last night firefighters were optimistic that helicopters would not be needed from today, but up to 20 forestry workers will continue dampening down hotspots on the ground.
At first light yesterday three helicopters resumed work, dumping water from the nearby Omanaia River onto 10ha of smouldering pine forest.
With the choppers unable to fly at night a flare-up near houses on the southern edge of the blaze at 4.30am yesterday had volunteers from the Rawene and Kaikohe brigades scrambling to protect nearby houses.
Unlike Monday, when three homes on the north side of the blaze were evacuated, no one was forced to flee the flames yesterday though locals were told to be ready to leave at short notice.
Northland deputy principal rural fire officer Clinton Lyall was hoping to have the fire fully contained by nightfall yesterday.
''But it'll take up to two weeks to put out completely. It's pretty ugly in there.''
A large bulldozer was also expected to finish cutting containment lines around the fire last night.
Rain due overnight and in coming days would help — but that didn't mean Northlanders could let down their guard, he said.
''The ground is still relatively dry. I'd urge people not to be complacent.''
The fire started on the side of Rawene Rd, 2km north of the SH12 turnoff, about 3pm on Monday. Fanned by strong winds, it spread quickly uphill into young pines.
Six helicopters using monsoon buckets fought the flames along with seven appliances and about 30 firefighters from Rawene, Kaikohe and Kerikeri.
The huge column of smoke could be seen from North Hokianga and people as far away as Kerikeri, on the opposite coast, reported seeing hazy skies and smelling smoke.
Michael Champtaloup, also a Northland deputy chief rural fire officer, said the cause was not yet known.
''But it started on the side of the road, most likely from someone passing by. We don't know if it was accidental or not.''
The fire grew quickly, from a strip of grass 100m long when it was first called in, to 10ha of young pine forest when it was contained around 8pm on Monday.
Firefighters managed to stop it getting into mature trees, which would have made it far more difficult to put out and caused a big financial loss for the forest owner.
Rawene Rd was closed between SH12 and Rawene Hospital until about 9.15pm on Monday, making a long wait for residents heading home from work.
Residents ready to evacuate yesterday included Michaela Ngere, whose home is just south of the fire. She had been taking turns with her parents to keep an eye on the fire all night.
They had packed spare clothing, medication and personal items in case they had to leave in a hurry.
Around 4am they got a call from firefighters warning them the fire was approaching.
Flames came to within about 30m of their neighbours' villa where firefighters were hosing the area around the house to stop the fire getting any closer.
Ngere, a teacher aide at Ōmanaia School, said all they could do was watch and wait until rain cooled the blaze about 7am.
''It wasn't nice. I'd just ask people not to light fires.''
A total fire ban has been in force across Northland since December 30.