Crash starts house fire

03:49, Mar 23 2014

Two children have escaped harm after a car hit a power pole and started a fire in their house in South Canterbury this morning.

The crash at Winchester knocked out power to about 1200 households at 6.30am and the sound was like an explosion, witnesses said.

A 1997 Mitsubishi Pajero hit the pole on State Highway One, knocking it over. The high voltage lines from the pole connected with low voltage lines, causing a spectacular power surge affecting households in the Winchester, Orari, Geraldine and Temuka areas.

The driver and two passengers in the four-wheel-drive were uninjured, while the family of four - two adults and two children, aged 1 and 2, escaped the house without injury.

Three fire engines and two tankers attended the blaze which took an hour to get under control.

Temuka Fire Service chief fire officer Richard Webb said the house was a write off.  

Neighbours spoken to said they were woken by a loud bang and a bright flashes the electricity surged.

Rob Wooding, who lives next door to the burnt house on the corner of Erskine St and SH1, said the family which lived there were quiet and they were lucky to escape the blaze.

''I heard a hard crack which sounded like an explosion. They had no time and were lucky to get out with the clothes on their back. It was an inferno within a couple of minutes.''

Neighbour Alan Patrick was woken by the crash in time to see a "huge blue green and red flash".

"Apparently the wiring just went," Patrick said.

A resident in the Winchester since 1968, it was the fourth time that power pole had been taken out, he said.

Alpine Energy chief executive Andrew Tomb said it was unusual for the surge to start a fire, but the details were still unclear and an investigation would take place.

Power was restored to households in Geraldine within two hours of the accident and an hour later only Winchester was still without electricity.''We expect Winchester will be restored by 3pm,'' Tombs said.  

A second unrelated crash less than three hours later cut power to about businesses in Washdyke.

At 9.13am a vehicle and its trailer of firewood separated hitting a lamppost and knocking out power to about 300 businesses, traffic lights and households, most of which have since been restored.


The Press