Shocked owner watches caravan blow up

CHARLOTTE SQUIRE
Last updated 12:00 08/02/2014

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A Golden Bay holidaymaker who stepped into the Pohara store to buy an icecream came out and saw his caravan blow up.

The caravan, which was being towed by a Ford ute, was completely destroyed in a fierce fire at lunch time yesterday.

The ute, which was parked outside the Ratanui Lodge and Penguin Cafe in Abel Tasman Drive was partly damaged, but could be driven away afterwards.

Constable Andy Palmer at the scene thought a gas cylinder may have been the cause of the explosion.

The owner of the vehicle was too shocked and upset to speak.

Visitor to the area, Robyn Thomas, heard the explosion from the holiday home she is staying in on the hill behind. She said she then saw black smoke and was immediately worried it might have been in the kitchen of either the cafe or the lodge next door.

Ratanui Lodge manager Steve Wakeman said he and his staff felt the explosion in their kitchen, saying "it shook the building".

"We ran out to check that no-one was in the explosion; we took fire extinguishers, but we stepped back when we saw how big it was," he said.

Diane Chester, who is visiting from the United Kingdom, said of the driver's decision to stop, that it was "the luckiest ice cream he ever had".

She and her husband said they felt the heat of the fire across the road in the Pohara campground, from about "20 feet away".

KEEPING IT SAFE

Tips for safe use of LPG appliances: No LPG appliance should be used when a caravan is travelling. Check all appliances are turned off when the towing vehicle is being refuelled. Check copper tubing for dents, kinks and corrosion. Check all hoses regularly for signs of cracking, fraying or splitting. Check for the strong LPG odour. This could be a gas leak. Check the flame on any burner. If it is yellow instead of blue, the appliance needs servicing by a competent service-person. If you smell fumes, your eyes sting, or you become dizzy and nauseous while an appliance is on, turn it off immediately. Have it serviced by a competent service-person. Check appliances for rust or corrosion. Use soapy water applied by brush or spray to check for leaks. Never use a flame. Apart from room sealed appliances and refrigerators, never operate a gas appliance when occupants are sleeping. Check all vents are clear. Lack of ventilation can kill.

EMERGENCY PROCEDURES Fire Dial 111 to call the Fire Service. Tell them an LPG cylinder is involved. Tell everyone to leave the premises and go to a safe place well away from the installation. If it is safe to do so, turn off all LPG valves. Gas leak Turn off the cylinder valve. Clear the area of bystanders. Turn off all appliances, and ventilate the caravan or motorhome. Don't operate any electrical switches until the air is clear. – source: WorkSafe NZ 

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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