The smell of burned rubber fills the air and charred cars are stacked as far as the eye can see.
It has been 16 hours since hundreds of cars went up in flames at a Ngongotahā car wrecker yet firefighters with soot on their uniforms and bags under their eyes remain at the scene.
Around 7.10pm on Tuesday the manager at Direct Auto Dismantlers on Taui St, Ngongotahā was working in the front office of the premises when he saw what looked like smoke coming from the car yard.
At the time, he was on the phone to owner Nixon Noori.
"I think you need to go down there and see what's going on," Noori remembered saying to him.
The manager kept Noori on the line as he went down, however, once he got there - he instantly hung up the phone.
What that manager saw was thick black smoke billowing from the hundreds of cars engulfed in flames.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand incident controller Hamish Smith said they received multiple calls about a huge fire in the industrial area of Ngongotahā.
Crews arrived to find a "well-developed fire" at the car wreckers. Within an hour, the fire had been upgraded to a fifth-alarm and 22 crews from across the region were at the scene, he said.
Smoke was billowing from the lot and could be seen as far away as the Mangorewa Gorge.
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The burning cars, equipped with combusting linings, seats, tyres and even oil, continued to light up at pace and the scene was "unpredictable" and hazardous, Smith said.
Not only that, but two large buildings filled with sawdust and dry timber bordered the blaze.
"There were a lot of potential risks," Smith said.
A firefighter on the scene said if it had caught one of the buildings, they could have been dealing with a catastrophic airborne fire.
A lucky last-minute wind change and the hard work of the firefighters meant many were thanking their lucky stars the blaze did not spread further.
"It could have been a lot worse," senior station officer Tony Kelly said.
The blaze, in terms of complexity, size and resources, was one of the biggest they had dealt with in years and air quality at the scene was hazardous due to the nature of what was burning, he said.
The council opened the water mains for crews but high demand for water meant firefighters were running to get it from the lake 200m away.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council put booms in place to ensure the toxic water did not run back into the lake.
A few firefighters were assessed by St John at the scene with heat-related symptoms, but no one was taken to hospital.
About 11pm, the fire was contained and crews started to leave, Smith said.
However, local firefighters stayed at the scene overnight, working in three-hour shifts to ensure hot spots were managed.
Smith thanked the fire crews, who had come from all corners of the region, at the end of their workday to help.
Many had not had a chance to eat or rest but made the decision to do their bit, he said.
Some had even taken annual leave or spoken to their employers to ensure they could help out this morning too, he said.
The "dedication of the crews" was something to be admired, he said.
Fire investigator Lynda McHugh was following several leads today to uncover the cause of the blaze.
She was reviewing aerial shots and drone footage as well as taking statements.
The blaze is believed to have started where workers at the wreckers had been picking up and stacking cars on top of one another to make way for new equipment.
If an engine or battery had been left in any of the cars, sparks from these could have started the fire.
Each car had been picked up, hosed down and moved while the fire was raging so determining exactly which car caused the fire was going to be a huge task.
It was going to be an "extremely hard" investigation due to several components, she said.
Firefighters and business owners faced a huge clean-up after the fire.
Owner Nixon Noori was surveying the devastation of his beloved family business this morning.
A vision of exhaustion, Noori was pacing around puddles and wads of sawdust, with his earpiece fielding calls about the blaze.
He said the financial impact of the fire would be felt, but he was thankful no one was hurt.
His business had been in the Ngongotahā area for 12 years.
He said he could not speculate on the cause but he was certain it was something out of their control.
Over the years, the business had had its fair share of small fires that were dealt with easily with fire extinguishers, he said.
"Nothing ever like this though."
Witnesses heard "explosions" and "tyres going bang" throughout the night.
No one living in the area was evacuated last night.