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Patrons of a Taupo pub didn't even have time to grab a cold beer when it was evacuated as a large bush fire, believed to have been deliberately lit, threatened the hotel this afternoon.
In the most serious of dozens of scrub fires that kept emergency services across the country busy, the Taupo blaze forced the evacuation of the Spa Hotel.
"Police rushed down and said 'go, go, go. Grab your wallet and go'," lessee Scott Rinkin said.
"We told everyone to jump in their cars and go."
He said staff and 18 guests watched from several hundred metres away as smoke billowed into the air and wind whipped the flames towards the pub.
A helicopter with a monsoon bucket helped 12 crews extinguish the fire, which destroyed about 3ha before it was brought under control close to the hotel. A second helicopter was on standby.
The cause of the fire is being investigated and incident controller Phil Parker said it appeared to have been deliberately lit.
He said the fire started in a remote location and "spread very rapidly".
Northern communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said firefighters were called to 33 vegetation fires between midnight and 8pm today.
He said extreme care was needed as firefighters faced tinderbox conditions in much of the country.
"The public needs to be vigilant and today's example where property was endangered [at Taupo] goes to show how extreme the situation is and the care the public needs to take," Mr Phillips said.
Firefighters had earlier extinguished a large scrub fire on Great Barrier Island, which started on the side of a hill on Palmers Beach about 7.45pm yesterday.
It took 30 firefighters and a helicopter to bring under control the fire believed to have been started by a camp cooker.
Meanwhile, fireworks were being blamed as the cause of a large fire in the crater of Auckland's Mt Eden early this morning.
The blaze burned through about 200 square metres of the crater before firefighters brought it under control about 4am.