Fire crews have contained a large scrub fire which destroyed one house and threatened others at Mahanga, near Wairoa on the East Coast.
Fire officers estimated the fire had destroyed 35ha of grassland and trees.
The Fire Service has been unable to confirm if there was any structural damage, but residents reported a new house situated away from the settlement had been razed.
The blaze, which started just before 3.30pm, prompted 12 fire trucks from as far away as Napier and six helicopters with monsoon buckets to be brought in.
RNZ reporter Liz Brown was staying in the settlement and said residents prepared to leave when they started to smell smoke and could see large flames burning through nearby pasture.
She said the fire came within 10m of the settlement but the wind changed before the flames were able to cross the main road.
"Luckily the wind changed because otherwise I'm sure there would have been dozens of homes gone, including our bach."
"Literally at the last minute, I was looking at our bach. You could see the flames and the sky was orange and I just thought 'Oh god, our bach is going to go.' And then the wind changed and it moved back from the settlement."
She said the fire had moved through an avocado orchard and destroyed a relatively new house on the grassland.
"We could see that it was coming quite quickly, we could see big flames burning through really dry grass and catching trees and stuff.
"It was quite a strong southerly pushing right towards the houses and everyone started getting their stuff together and getting their cars and moving stuff out."
Ms Brown estimated about 20 of the 50 homes in the settlement were evacuated during the fire.
Auckland woman Sarah Young was returning to her beach house at Mahia with her partner and three children when they noticed the fire and went to have a look at it, without realising how big it was.
She said locals initially seemed quite relaxed, but when they realised how quickly the fire was spreading some began digging trenches, while others tried to douse the flames with buckets of water or were cutting down gorse and bush.
She said the fire got so scary they had to leave.
"The fire was pretty loud, and honestly like the whole car filled with smoke and bits of ash flying into the car and it was like a black haze.
"And when we were on the side of the road, when it had got to the edge of the road by the baches, it was so fast. It was roaring and crackling.
The helicopters were later stood down and residents who had been evacuated were allowed to return home.
A post on the Wairoa District Council's Facebook page said an evacuation centre was set up at the Gisborne Boy's Education Centre, near the Mahanga Marae.