Family get out as home burns

19:21, Mar 23 2014
winchester house fire
Neighbours talk to police after a house caught fire when a vehicle hit a power pole at Winchester.
winchester house fire
Emergency service personnel at the scene of a crash which started a house fire in Winchester.
winchester house fire
An investigation has been launched to work out why a house fire started when a power pole in Winchester was taken out in a crash.
winchester house fire
Little remains of a house, which ignited when a vehicle crashed into a power pole in Winchester.
winchester house fire
Thick fog in Winchester may have been a factor in a crash which ignited a house fire in Winchester.
winchester house fire
Emergency services get to work on an early morning house fire in Winchester.

A Winchester family of four, including two preschoolers, escaped their burning house early yesterday after a vehicle hit a power pole, causing a power surge. There were no injuries.

An estimated 1200 households lost power as a result of the crash, and power was still being returned to 50 houses last night.

A 1997 Mitsubishi Pajero, travelling north with three occupants, collided with the pole on State Highway 1 at 6.30am. The high- voltage lines then clashed with low-voltage circuitry, causing a spectacular power surge affecting households in the Winchester, Orari, Geraldine and Temuka areas.

Alpine Energy chief executive Andrew Tombs said workers were working on reconnection and going through a relivening sequence. "Each house has to be checked to make sure it is safe," Mr Tombs said.

The Herald understands the couple who lived in the razed house had married a few weeks ago and only recently bought the house. They were being looked after by relatives in Winchester, and Victim Support.

Sergeant Mylen Hamilton, of Timaru, said the house was gutted and the occupants were lucky to get out without injury. He understood the house was insured.


Temuka chief fire officer Richard Webb said the entire house was well ablaze when emergency services arrived.

Three fire engines and two tankers, including one from Geraldine, attended and it took an hour to get the fire under control.

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

Rob Wooding, who lives next door to the burnt house on the corner of Erskine St and State Highway 1, said he thought something had exploded.

"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 backs.

"It became an inferno within minutes," Mr Wooding said.

Meanwhile, at 9.13am a vehicle and its trailer of firewood separated on Meadows Rd at Washdyke, hitting a lamp post and knocking out power to about 300 businesses, traffic lights and households, most of which had been restored by yesterday evening.

About five commercial property owners were content to wait until today for their power to be checked and reconnected.

The Timaru Herald