Thick smoke and falling ash surrounded Lynn Bennett as she fled the huge flames that came within metres of her Woodside home, west of Dunedin, yesterday.
''It was scary; it was very scary,'' she told the Otago Daily Times as she watched helicopters laden with monsoon buckets battling to save the property.
Minutes before the evacuation, she and her husband Paul awoke to the sound of loud banging at the door.
That urgent banging was from a neighbour alerting them to an out-of-control scrub fire threatening their McKendry Rd home, near Outram, just before 7am.
''It was just so windy we didn't even hear it [the fire].
''Some other neighbours could hear it crackling but we couldn't because of the wind.''
The fire came within 10m of the home the couple had built on their 6ha lifestyle block seven years ago.
The Bennetts had just enough time to move a tractor and open a gate for the cows as the flames had leapt into a new forestry block of eucalypts, and destroyed their baleage and a tractor cab.
Mrs Bennett said she stuffed her car full of precious items, including family photos, clothes, and even her Rod Stewart tickets, as thick black smoke surrounded the house and ash began to fall.
''We knew it could move fast as we have seen fires around here before.
''You didn't have to think about it; you knew you just had to go.''
Their home was the closest to the flames that forced the evacuation of a dozen people from four homes, while 100 other people in Woodside were warned to be ready in case the flames spread.
Mrs Bennett described her neighbourhood as a ''great place - we all look out for each other''.
The Rural Fire Service was still at the scene this morning.
At the fire's peak, dozens of firefighters battled on the ground alongside two diggers and four tankers, while helicopters with monsoon buckets worked to protect properties and fight the fire from the air.
But, between 5pm and 6pm, the temperature dropped 10 degrees and more than 2mm of rain fell as a southerly front replaced the strong nor-westers which had fanned the flames.
State Highway 87 was closed for several hours and around 100 residents of nearby Woodside to be put on evacuation stand-by while police set up a welfare centre in nearby Outram for any evacuees.
An update on the plan of action for firefighters today was expected later this morning.
- Additional reporting NZME. News Service