Fire and Emergency NZ has spent more than $200,000 in just two weeks fighting out-of-control fires in the Far North that also threatened properties.
The revelation was made by Northland's principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor as a restricted fire season came into force for all Northland from 6am on December 1, which means people will need a permit to light fires.
There are exceptions such as hangi, umu and barbecue fires.
Recent rain has not helped conditions and with hot weather predicted heading into the festive season, Taylor said people needed a permit and should exercise caution while lighting fires.
"There are many examples of fires getting out of control recently.
"We've spent over $200,000 on out-of-control burns in the first two weeks of November alone, mostly in the Far North.
"Most, if not all, those burns were as a result of people not paying attention and leaving the fires burning, thinking it's safe to leave them unattended," he said.
"Several houses were threatened as well.
"It's a total waste of public money and we'd urge people to act responsibly. The next level up is a prohibited fire season."
Taylor said an end date and time for the restricted fire season would depend on weather conditions.
"Wind is our worst enemy in Northland because it dries things very quickly. We've had some rain but that hasn't improved conditions," he said.
Just over a week ago, a burn-off by people clearing a section started a fire that swept through 10-year-old pines near Whangaroa.
Firefighters tackled the blaze, about the size of a rugby field, from both flanks while the Kerikeri brigade attacked the head, taking water from a handy pond.
The ground crews were aided by three helicopters, which filled their monsoon buckets from the harbour.
In early November, a wildfire that appeared to have been deliberately lit in South Hokianga covered about 5ha in a "nasty piece of bush" with old, unthinned pines and hazards such as dead branches in trees.
Firefighters cut a fire break and relied on a helicopter with a monsoon bucket to douse the flames.
■Visit www.checkitsalright.nz to obtain a permit, for advice on the current fire status and tips on safe fires.