A total fire ban is now in force across Northland and anyone caught lighting rubbish and scrub fires can face jail for two years and a maximum fine of $300,000.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand declared the total fire from midnight following a heatwave which brought record temperatures to many parts of the country and a spate of unpermitted fires in Northland recently.

Most of the fires that were lit without a permit were in the mid and Far North.

The region has experienced a hot and dry summer so far with little rain since about Christmas.


"We're reaching our trigger points. It's getting very dry and we're noticing that fires that are escaping, they are getting harder to put out and so we're erring on the side of caution," principal rural fire officer Northland Myles Taylor said.

He said any fires right now would be extremely dangerous.

A total fire ban means people can not apply for a permit to light rubbish and scrub fires.

Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-30s in most parts of Northland this week as a result of hot air coming from across the Tasman coupled with warm waters in New Zealand, a high pressure system bringing settled weather and more sunshine hours.

Several rubbish and scrub fires were lit in Northland after a restricted fire season was put in place on December 1 but so far no one has been prosecuted, despite the Fire and Emergency New Zealand racking up a bill of more than $200,000 to put them out.

The latest scrub fire was at Giles Rd, near Horeke. It started on Saturday afternoon.

Four fire appliances and two helicopters tackled the blaze on Sunday. A further two helicopters were on standby.

There's no indication yet as to what caused the fire that as of Sunday had burnt 65ha.


A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said firefighters were still at the scene yesterday.

Prior to that large scrub fire, a wildfire sparked by fireworks on Wednesday last week came within metres of engulfing Moturua Island in the eastern Bay of Islands, which has reintroduced locally extinct birds.

Luckily the northwesterly wind blew the flames and embers away from Moturua.

Only days before that, a blaze started by an explosion set off on a Bay of Islands beach swept through part of a historic reserve known for its large kiwi population.

The fire started at Rangihoua Bay, on the Purerua Peninsula, and quickly spread up a steep hillside in Rangihoua Heritage Park.

Seven fire appliances and about 30 firefighters battled the blaze on the night. A helicopter with a monsoon bucket extinguished hotspots along the cliff the next day.

People can check their local fire status at www.checkitsalright.nz

* What's in store for the weather - page 3