True love triumphs over fire

Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014
Clinton Fox

Wedding guests' cars exploded in flames as the groom waited for the bride to arrive.

Newlyweds George and Steve
Emma Hughes
AT LAST: Newlyweds George and Steve can finally relax and have a hug after all the drama.

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A scrub fire very nearly put an end to the wedding of Waiheke couple George Gardner and Steve Marshall as fast spreading flames blew up guests' cars and quickly moved towards the venue.

The blaze broke out among vehicles parked in a paddock as relatives and friends waited for the bride to arrive at La Casa de Rangihoua in Rocky Bay on March 7.

Shocked guests watched in horror and disbelief as vegetation caught alight and cars started to explode.

The bride, who is editor of the Waiheke Marketplace, was in a London taxi with relatives and was diverted to the safety of Chardy Ridge above the venue.

She could feel the heat of the blaze as the cab drove past the scene to safety.

"We were very near it. It was scary. I was in shock and couldn't speak," George says.

"It was like the scene of a movie.

"I didn't know if anyone was hurt or if Colin and Anne Sayles' beautiful new home La Casa de Rangihoua was up in flames.

"I wondered if the fire was going to come closer to us up the hill and whether we were all going to die - or if there would even be a wedding."

Groom Steve Marshall says he was freaking out and worried about his bride to be.

"I didn't know where she was. Finally, I got a message she was up the hill."

Fire crews put the blaze out shortly after it started around 3.15pm but three cars were destroyed and a people mover was badly damaged.

George and Steve were married around an hour later.

Celebrant Irene Armstrong conducted the ceremony almost as if nothing had happened.

Her own brand new car was one of the casualties and her phone, work tablet and prescription glasses went up with it.

George says the wedding, when it finally got underway, was wonderful.

"We want to thank the fire brigade for saving the day, Brett Cooper at Chardy Ridge for taking us in, and Irene Armstrong for her professionalism.

"It was a perfect ceremony and, although we are sorry some of our guests lost their belongings, we are blessed no one was hurt."

The Fire Service believes the blaze was caused by an electrical fault in one of the cars.

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