The first thing Kaitaia's Chief Fire Officer Craig Rogers did when he saw the location of a fire on Tuesday evening was to call for two helicopters.

They weren't needed, as it happened, but the fire, in the community forest at Waipapakauri Ramp, had had the potential to be little short of calamitous.

The alarm was raised at 6.51pm, but by then residents had already swung into action. The fire, 50 metres into the forest from West Coast Rd, just east of The Park, had been effectively dealt with by the time the first of two fire appliances arrived, although the crews went in with hoses and doused the area with water just to make sure it wasn't going to reignite.

It was Johnny Jones, who was mowing hay nearby, who first smelled smoke. He alerted Krystal-Rose Taaffe, and within minutes the source of the smoke had been found and a bucket brigade had been formed.


Nine-year-old Cleo Rameka, who was one of the youngsters who helped cart water across the road and into the forest, said later that her swimming pool was now in need of a top-up.

Clive and Wendy Crombie, who live across the road, went in too, doing their bit with shovels, Mrs Crombie saying the fire had only been about three metres across, but had already got into several tree stumps, and had not been far off spreading much further.

She had high praise for everyone who had responded so quickly.

"We would very soon have had a big fire," she said, adding that she had a number of theories about how it might have started, none of which involved lightning or a carelessly discarded cigarette butt that might have travelled 50 metres into the forest, at right angles to the southwesterly breeze.

Meanwhile a spark from a power line, that had earlier been heard buzzing, was blamed for a fire in long grass on farm land near Kerikeri on Tuesday afternoon.

A crew from the Kerikeri Fire Brigade, backed up by a water tanker, doused the flames before they could threaten livestock or property.

"We were just lucky there was no wind today," Deputy CFO Kevin Graham said.