Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw says seeing the devastation caused by the Christchurch Port Hills fire has been a reality check.
"Jeepers, when you see flames burning so close to the city it's scary stuff," he told The AM Show.
McCaw has been flying missions since the fires broke out on Monday, mapping their position and relaying it to those on the ground.
He hasn't been entrusted with a monsoon bucket just yet: "There's plenty of training needed for that - you've got to be getting up to quite a few hours of experience."
McCaw, who began working at Christchurch Helicopters after he retired from the All Blacks in 2015, says it's a rewarding job.
"I'm hugely passionate about flying. I think the big thing that I've enjoyed especially around the earthquakes, and now this, is you're actually flying to help people."
He says the death of helicopter pilot Steve Askin, who crashed while fighting the fires on Tuesday, was a huge shock which most people still haven't had time to process.
"The helicopter industry is pretty close - everyone knows everyone.
"Unfortunately the fire won't stop because of a crash. The sort of thing Steve would've said is, 'You've gotta get on with it'.
"I think once we finish up there might be a bit of reality [hitting]."
Mr Askin, 37, is survived by a wife and two young children. A Givealittle page set up for the family had already received more than $110,000 in public donations by Friday morning.
Mr Askin was a former SAS soldier who was wounded fighting the Taliban.
His funeral will be held in Christchurch on Monday.
The helicopter crash is being investigated by police, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.