Christchurch man escapes shed inferno

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 01/03/2013

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As flames snaked up his chest and face, a Christchurch man desperately tried to fight the fire before escaping from a workshop that was accidentally set alight.

A fuel leak sparked the blaze, which almost engulfed the man and the Marshland shed where he was working, repairing a car.

Panicked, the 58-year-old did all he could to put out the fire before getting out of the building.

He was found with extensive burns when firefighters arrived at the Mills Rd scene about 2pm yesterday. The shed itself was in flames.

Fire risk management officer Shane O'Brien said he did not know how the man escaped, but he had "put himself out".

The man was rushed to Christchurch Hospital by ambulance and was in a "serious but stable condition" last night.

A Canterbury District Health Board spokeswoman said the man had suffered burns to his arms, hands, legs, chest and face.

A witness said he heard him "howling in pain" as he was treated at the scene.

O'Brien said an investigation revealed the cause of the fire was accidental.

The man had been doing some repair work on a vehicle when there was a fuel leak, which ignited.

A light he was working under was believed to have sparked the break, O'Brien said.

"He made an attempt to put it out himself with some on-site extinguishers but it got out of control very quickly."

Three fire trucks and five tankers were sent to contain the blaze.

The fire was encased in the 50-metre-by-15m building.

A swimming pool on a property next door had been used as a water supply.

Neighbour Wayne Anstiss said the flames were "5 or 6 metres high at one stage".

"I was just working away here and I heard the fire engines coming and going. I only know what I can see from here, but the flames were well above the roofs before."

He said the fire site housed about half a dozen storage sheds, and there were other buildings used by businesses.

It belonged to private owners who leased the buildings out, Antiss said.

Ross Storer, owner of Storer Contracting, rushed to the scene to check on his business when he heard about the fire.

He believed the blaze had destroyed about 40m of building including all the workshops and storage units, but it was contained before it reached his building.

"I just got a phone call from my neighbour, he said 'your yard's on fire'. So we came straight out. It was a bit of a nervous drive out here."

O'Brien last night urged Cantabrians to be wary of the ongoing risk of fires despite temperatures coming down.

"The fire risk is still extreme, because there's still not a lot of moisture in the ground. I'd say people need to be more vigilant now."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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