Holidaymakers fled their baches and two firefighters were injured as a large scrub fire threatened properties in the Marlborough Sounds.
Witnesses said the fire started after a felled tree landed on a power line at Flagg Bay, Port Underwood, around 3pm yesterday.
One firefighter suffered from smoke inhalation while a second broke several ribs after falling down a bank.
Amy Lucas, who only narrowly escaped the flames with her young children, said it was the scariest experience of her life.
She was playing on the beach with her three children - two aged 2 years and a 3-month-old baby - when a man told them a power line was down.
The line was hanging over the top of them being held up by trees, she said. She got the three children into the car and drove off. "Seconds after, we heard the [fire], I looked in the rear view mirror and the whole road that we had just driven on was totally engulfed."
The crackling from the flames sounded like water, she said. Blenheim men Brent Rea and Andrew Lucas were almost engulfed by smoke when the wind changed direction.
The pair planned to stay at Flagg Bay for the weekend.
They were diving for paua when they saw the smoke and got concerned for their wives and children. Rea said the flames were blowing away from the houses, but the smoke blew towards them when the wind suddenly changed direction.
"That's when we thought it was time to get out of there."
Rea said a man was cutting down a tree with a chainsaw when it fell and clipped a power line, which caused the blaze and power outage.
A number of poisoned wilding pines caught fire, he said. Up to 10 baches were evacuated because of the fire.
Residents gathered at Hakahaka Bay, about 2.5km away.
Six helicopters and 30 firefighters worked to stop the fire spreading to nearby properties.
Southern Fire Service communications shift manager Andrew Norris said the fire destroyed a bach and a large shed.
The fire had been contained by 7.30pm but firefighters were remaining at the scene overnight and this morning.
The two injured firefighters were taken to Wairau Hospital in Blenheim.
- Fairfax Media