Couple flee 4WD set ablaze by barn fire

RICHARD KEAN
Last updated 05:00 06/08/2014

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Two people had to leap for their lives from their four-wheel-drive vehicle near Kaikoura after sparks from a blazing hayshed set it on fire.

Andy and Pip Vaughan called the fire service when they saw the fire in the haybarn on Green Zealand farm on Schoolhouse Rd on Saturday night.

Kaikoura volunteer fire brigade chief Ian Walker said the fire was threatening a house and a new million-dollar dairy shed.

Fanned by strong northwest winds, it sent sparks flying, starting eight other fires in hedges and grass nearby.

By the time the Vaughans got to Postman's Rd, their vehicle was also burning, he said. They got out safely, but the Landcruiser and everything in it were destroyed.

"The driver stopped to call the 111 service then the car was engulfed in sparks blowing onto the vehicle, which must have caught on the car," he said.

Kaikoura people stepped up to offer accommodation to the couple, who lost everything they had with them, Walker said.

It is believed hot northwest winds had earlier revived a weeks-old burnoff which, fanned by wind gusts of up to 100kmh, ignited the hayshed and hedges and grass downwind.

The wind died down soon after, and a southerly change brought rain, helping firefighters to avert further disaster, Walker said.

Three fire trucks attended from Kaikoura, as well as one each from Cheviot and Ward, and a water tanker from Awatere.

Kaikoura volunteer firefighter Kevin Rush responded to the alarm and discovered his excavator was already in the thick of it.

"I've been working there for 12 months and my digger was next to the fire," he says.

Rush worked to bury the hayshed with the excavator, removing the dangerous unstable roof iron and preventing the fire spreading.

He also cut fire breaks in nearby hedges.

High winds also brought a large tree down on to powerlines near Kowhai ford.

The Express has been unable to contact the Vaughans, who are understood to have been visiting from North Canterbury.

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- The Marlborough Express

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