Far North fire: Some residents return home as battle to extinguish blaze continues

Some residents in the Far North are returning home after being evacuated from their properties due to a fire overnight.

About 100 homes were evacuated after the blaze broke out in the Ahipara Gumfields Historic Reserve on Tuesday evening.

Photos posted to social media showed smoke billowing across nearby Ninety Mile Beach. The fire has burnt through about 56 hectares, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) said on Wednesday.

Around 40 FENZ personnel remain on the ground and are receiving support from six helicopters.

"We are now at a point where residents of Foreshore Rd up to and including Tasman Heights, can now return to their homes, provided they remain ready to evacuate if the situation changes," incident controller Rory Renwick said on Wednesday.

"For the other residents, mainly those on Reef View Rd, we will continue to review the areas around their homes and let them back in, when it is safe to do so."

Renwick said the goal for FENZ was to keep the fire within the identified perimeter, with people in the area asked to stay away from the beach and the fire ground while firefighting operations continue.

FENZ said another update on the situation would be given later in the afternoon.

Following the blaze's outbreak, Northland moved to a prohibited fire season. It was previously in a restricted fire season but FENZ said as of 8am on Wednesday, no open-air fires were allowed in the region.

Last week, FENZ made the same change for Whangārei and Kaipara.

"It is very dry up in the Far North, and we want to take every step possible to reduce the risk of potentially dangerous fires like we are dealing with at Ahipara," said principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor.

"We have a lot of visitors in the area and they must understand the fire dangers around Northland.

Activities such as lighting bonfires and campfires are now banned under the new rules.

FENZ also advised anyone camping to have an escape plan should a fire break out.

"We need the people of Northland, and those holidaying in Northland, to do their part to prevent a wildfire this summer," Taylor said.

"If you are staying somewhere you are unfamiliar with, you should look at safe escape routes from where you are staying.

"A fire can start quickly and at any time of the day, and an escape plan away from your accommodation can be a lifesaver," he added.

Taylor also urged people in the region not to burn rubbish.

"Last year we went to more than 100 rubbish fires around the Far North," he said.

"Those fires were unnecessary, and we don’t want to see a repeat of those high numbers this summer."