Ross Beddows has fought hundreds of fires, often under difficult circumstances, but Pukenui on Monday was in a class of its own.

"It was so hot that even the cow pats were burning," the Kaitaia fire Brigade's deputy Chief Fire Officer said.

"They were very tough conditions. Everyone did a really good job."

The grass fire, in paddocks between Houhora Heads Rd, east of SH1, and Raio Stream, was started by a ride-on mower. The operator had done his best to extinguish it, but had not been able to do so, Mr Beddows said.


Crews from the Houhora and Kaitaia brigades responded, with two appliances and two water tankers. A locally-owned water tanker also assisted, "which was great."

The blaze covered two or three acres before it was brought under control, the only damage being to some fencing, and the mower, which did not survive. It could have been much worse though.

"We were lucky there wasn't a westerly wind," Mr Beddows said.

"That would have blown the fire towards Houhora Heads, where there's plenty of scrub, and the Subritzky homestead. What breeze there was was from the east, which blew smoke across State Highway 1, obstructing traffic for a while. The highway was down to one lane for a couple of hours."

Embers had jumped across the highway at one point, starting a new fire in flax and grass, "just as we ran out of water," but was quickly brought under control, after briefly threatening a farm shed.

Water was ferried to the blaze from the Houhora fire station, about a kilometre north, and a helicopter was placed on standby but was not required.