Helicopter pilot dies fighting New Caledonia fire

A helicopter fighting a forest fire in New Caledonia has crashed killing its pilot while a mechanic on board remains missing.

Last night a rescue operation was underway to recover the victim who was helping to douse the flames of a fire at Voh in the north of the territory.

Homes were evacuated and the main highway was cut on Sunday when fire engulfed bush in the area.

About 200 hectares of vegetation was burnt and about 20 homes threatened.

Three helicopters were brought in to help fight the fire which also involved security personnel who led convoys of motorists to safety.

A territory-wide fire ban is in force after strong winds helped spread several bushfires across the territory last week as a prolonged dry spell continues.

Like much of the Pacific, New Caledonia is predicted to experience well below normal rainfall in coming months as what's expected to be one of the worst El Niño systems in over a decade intensifies.