Firefighters have managed to contain a large plantation fire north of Christchurch which at its peak saw the evacuation of 40 nearby homes.

The blaze, which was believed to be moving south, began in a plantation forest area 300m north of the car park at Pines Beach, 4km east of Kaiapoi, just before 2pm, police said.

A helicopter equipped with a monsoon bucket and 21 fire engines helped to fight the fire.

Police said all residents of houses that had earlier been evacuated were allowed to return to their homes at 6pm.

Advertisement

A cordon remained in place, which encompassed the plantation and surrounding bush area.

Police said they were working with fire investigators to dampen down any remaining hot-spots.

They would also be undertaking a full scene examination in order to determine the cause of the fire.

Police asked the public to avoid the cordoned area around the plantation while scene investigations were carried out.

Emergency services thanked the public and Pines Beach residents for their patience and cooperation while the cordons were in place.

Southern fire communications shift manager Riwai Grace said 14 fire trucks remained at the scene

Emergency services had feared the worst at the fire's peak, as strong winds made the blaze difficult to control.

"Thankfully there was a wind shift - it definitely helped the crews get the fire under control. It could have been a lot worse than what it was."

Advertisement

Mr Grace said the cause of the fire was still unclear.

"At this stage it is too early to tell what may have caused the fire, they are looking at all sorts of different avenues."

Meanwhile, a house fire on Batten Grove at Pines Beach has also been extinguished. Fire investigators were now trying to figure out if the two incidents were related, Mr Grace said.

"Fire investigators are looking at that house fire and trying to determine if it was caused by the fire in the forest or if it is a separate incident."

Emergency services said the prompt reporting of the fire minimised the impact on the Pines Beach community and resulted in no residential properties being damaged or lost.

They said the summer weather had caused land in the Canterbury region to be very dry, and urged the public to report any suspicious activity or signs of smoke in remote areas as soon as possible.

Rinaldi Ave resident Jennie Stephens was one of many whose home had been cordoned off by firefighters and police.

She said she arrived home from work at 3.30pm and was told by emergency services she was not allowed to enter Pines Beach.

"On the way home from Kaiapoi I could see a big smoke plume -- I was thinking 'I hope that's not near my house'."

When she reached the turn-off to Pines Beach, she found it had been cordoned off.

"We had to stay there for a couple of hours, it was just after 5pm that we got let back in.

"The police were asking what street we lived on and some people were allowed back to their homes and other people weren't."

Ms Stephens said it was "scary" to not be allowed to return home, especially because of the thick smoke surrounding the small community.

"I could see where the fire was and my house seemed to be pretty far away from that ... it was worrying knowing the fire was coming towards the houses.

"I have cats so I was worried about them."

Ms Stephens said she was glad to be back home, but she was still worried the fire could potentially flare up again.

"It is really hot here and the wind's calmed down, but it is still windy, so it is always a bit of a worry.

"The fire engines are still here, you can hear them. I think everything should be fine by later tonight.