Residents near a massive bush fire south of Whitianga have been forced to come to terms with the damage it has done amid fears a change in wind direction could spread the blaze further.

The fire has so far ripped through 70ha of bush, scrub and four homes, as well as wiping out most of the Wilderland Sustainable Community settlement.

Though it rained yesterday, a change in wind direction prompted fears the fire could spread and the New Zealand Defence Force was called in to help battle the blaze at Comers Rd, Kaimarama.

Jani Dennis and Paul Lee yesterday returned to their Comers Rd home, which came perilously close to being destroyed.


Dennis couldn't believe their luck, while Lee labelled it a "blessing" their home was unscathed. There were burnt out trees about 20m from their door.

Lee's former wife, Helen, wasn't so lucky. Her home, which sat atop a hill with views over Whitianga township, is now a flattened mess of broken crockery and pottery, charred music sheets, cans of food, books, as well as crumpled appliances.

Her most treasured possession - her heirloom baby grand piano - has been reduced to just charcoal skeletal remains.

Lee said she was a very strong and resilient person who would bounce back.

The Defence Force announced yesterday afternoon it would deploy five experienced firefighters to the blaze at the request of the National Rural Fire Authority.

"We will do our best to assist the local community in Whitianga and hope that our firefighting crew will be able to help get the blaze under control soon.'

Thames Valley principal rural fire officer Peter Smith said ideally they were after an inch of rain over the next 10 days.

In the meantime, the community has been rallying together to support those affected.

Local resident Amy Hodge's home has become a makeshift catering kitchen for pilots, firefighter and families, as volunteers from all over the North Island have travelled to lend a hand.

"We all come together and work together to get this all done so it makes the transition to this tragedy much easier for them all," Hodge said.

Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie has established a bank account for donations.

"It's awesome the way people come together and help each other out, that's how we survive, that's community."

Community trust Whitianga Social Services has also been co-ordinating support for people who've lost their homes.

Manager Jenny Wolf said they had been inundated with donations.

"The support has been overwhelming at times it's hard just to not shed a tear in front of people ... people just rally around."