Helicopter pilot Mark Read battled against strong winds and thick smoke for almost seven hours yesterday, dropping water onto the fires burning out of control near Prebbleton, south of Christchurch.
The Garden City Helicopters pilot has helped fight some major fires in his 25 years of flying, and said yesterday's was one of the big ones.
The blaze that sparked in dry, blustery conditions held its own challenges.
"In this particular case there was definitely a lot of lives and properties at risk. There was also a lot of wires."
The wires from power lines were a hidden danger for the five pilots in the air, four of them operating monsoon buckets.
"We could see what you could see from the ground, a lot of smoke. There was a lot of different coloured smoke which meant there were different types of fuel being burnt.
"But it wasn't what we could see it was what we couldn't see, like the wires. You had to be aware."
Mr Read said he received the call out just after 3pm and spent the next six or seven hours fighting the fires.
The helicopters took to "dipping" for water for their monsoon buckets from people's pools, with police on the ground helping to remove pool covers.
"We basically operated initially from a pump set up but that was too slow and there are lots of good water sources in the area such as private pools," said Mr Read.
Most of the pool owners appeared to have been evacuated, he said.
"One we saw had his home threatened by the fire so I'd say he was quite pleased to see us."
Operating monsoon buckets is not uncommon work, with Mr Read fighting fires every year. "It's all part and parcel of it," he said.
Mr Read said the majority of pilots go through formal training for monsoon bucket work at some stage.
"There's a big pool of pilots who are experienced on fires," he said.
Searching for where to douse the flames was difficult, not just because of poor visibility.
Mr Read said: "It wasn't easy because we were being given road locations that meant nothing to us in the air.
"It certainly had it's challenges but it was all done well and straight forward."