About 100 Dunedin houses were evacuated as firefighters battled a major fire which now appears to be under control.
Six helicopters, 12 fire engines, three tankers and one command unit fought the blaze.
The fire is under control but conditions are still extremely dangerous, reports The Otago Daily Times.
Police evacuated businesses and homes in the area and closed the motorway in both directions.
A Dunedin woman named Joss told Radio Live that she and her family had fled their home with just their most prized possessions.
“We’ve got the cat in the car, I’ve got my wedding ring, we’ve got family photos.”
At the time of the call the flames were about a block away from their home.
“We’ve seen about four houses burst into flames. Not a good sight.”
A welfare centre has been set up for people displaced by the fire at the St Clair Golf Club, Isadore Road.
Civil Defence and Red Cross representatives will provide information and support.
Paul Allen from Civil Defence is at the welfare centre with a team of eight from the Red Cross.
He says about 14 people have made their way to the centre, and they will stay there until given the all-clear. Evacuees are being given food and drinks.
“People are pretty uptight, a bit tense. They’re naturally apprehensive about what’s going on.”
He says they can still smell smoke despite the golf club’s distance from the fire.
Dawn Favel from Helensburgh owns a firewood yard in the middle of the fire zone. She told Newshub that it looks as though the yard has been destroyed by flames.
“There's nothing we can do about it, it’s just history now unfortunately.”
Witnesses have heard what may have been explosions. Ms Favel says there are a number of wrecked cars behind their firewood yard, and that there is a gas plant next door.
“I certainly hope it’s not gas bottles at the gas plant because that would be really risky.”
Also within the fire zone are a food processing plant and fuel tankards.
Firefighters are urging people to be vigilant in the hot conditions, and avoid any activity that could potentially cause an accidental fire.