A suspicious fire in Tutukaka on Saturday night is a warning to coastal communities about the threat fire poses to such areas, according to fire officials.
The fire, which was situated in the Department of Conservation-managed Tutukaka Reserve, was first attended to by fire crews at about 7:30pm and saw about 40 fire officers fight the 5ha blaze.
Fire crews from Ngunguru, Whangārei, Hikurangi, Kamo and Kawakawa attended the fire, which was on the northern side of the Tutukaka Head lighthouse walk, about 50 metres from the end of Landowners Lane.
Thanks to the limited access to water, fire crews had to take water from a property owner's tank to fight the blaze.
The fire was roughly 150m away from houses and while no evacuations were necessary, some people voluntarily evacuated as police cordoned off the area. Fire crews left the area about midnight.
Deputy principal rural fire officer Rory Renwick said the site had been checked yesterday morning and there were no hotspots suggesting reignition.
He confirmed there were no signs the fire had been lit accidentally and therefore was seen as suspicious.
Renwick said no investigation into the fire would take place unless new information came to light. He encouraged the public to contact police or fire services if they had any information about the fire.
"If anyone has any information about how it has started, we'd love to know about it."
However, Renwick said it was a reminder of the danger coastal communities faced by fire. On Saturday, there was a light northerly blowing which Renwick believed to be a crucial factor.
"This fire we got on top of because of the light winds, but a lot of our coastal communities are vulnerable to fire where people are living in close proximity to the scrub and they need to think about the flammability of the vegetation types around them and they need to talk to us about having a plan," he said.
"There's going to be times when we're not going to be able to stop fires in strong winds in these coastal scrub lands."
With current conditions drier than normal, Renwick said there had been a series of burns in September and October which had spread out of control, thanks to a range of factors including people burning material in windy conditions, leaving fires unattended and burning near scrub, gorse and forestry debris.
At the South Island's Lake Ōhau, 48 structures were destroyed in a fire which decimated more than 5000 hectares and ravaged the local community.
Tutukaka resident of 40 years Jeroen Jongejans was notified by a friend of the fire and watched as it burned a number of large pohutukawa trees.
Jongejans said he remembered two serious fires along the Tutukaka coastline, one on Tutukaka Block Rd about four years ago and one at the Ngunguru Sandspit about 35 years ago.
In this case, Jongejans said the community was lucky the wind strength was low and was blowing away from land.
"We've had a number of fires at different stages along our coastline, we've been lucky that unlike [at Lake Ōhau], we've managed to contain it over here and haven't had major damage, but if the wind direction was different this time and it was more wind, it could have been a totally different story.
"Somebody maybe did something that's a bit idiotic and the results were nearly catastrophic."