A possum climbing over power lines sparked a Taradale grass fire that accidentally set off a volunteer fire alarm in the middle of the night.

The Taradale fire alarm went off at 11.35pm on Tuesday, because of a grass fire in Springfield Rd, waking many residents in the suburb.

Unison spokesman Danny Gough said a possum sparked the grass fire after it climbed a power pole and over the cross arms where power is conducted.

The sparks met with the grass at the base of the power pole starting the fire, he said.

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Hawke's Bay fire area commander Ken Cooper said the alarm was a technical error.

The alarms are usually silenced from 7pm to 7am and volunteer firefighters are notified by pager instead.

It was thought there was an error with the paging system, so the alarm went off.

The alarm is a rising and falling sound and different from civil defence emergency sirens.

"It was a small fire and it was put out quickly," Cooper said.