19 Jan 2015

Fire caused by 'freak accident'

8:59 pm on 19 January 2015

The farmer whose combine harvester burst into flames causing a fire in Canterbury, just west of Kaiapoi, says it was a freak accident.

Firefighters dampen down the combine harvester on Michael Manion's farm.

Firefighters dampen down the combine harvester on Michael Manion's farm. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The fire near Mandeville North Subdivision started in vegetation in very dry conditions shortly after 2pm, after the engine of Michael Manion's machine burst into flames.

Hot blustery conditions resulted in it jumping to a pine shelter belt and racing to within 100 metres of two houses.

Volunteer fire fighters and helicopters with monsoon buckets managed to prevent any property damage.

Mr Manion said he had no idea how the fire started.

"I thought 'that's an unusual smell' and I turned around and the flames were about a foot high."

He said when he noticed the flames coming off the engine he realised it was too late to do anything but to call for help.

He said it was fortunate the fire was prevented from reaching further shelter belts which would have sent it into he path of a number of neighbouring lifestyle blocks and houses.

Fire threatened houses

Waimakariri District Council principal rural fire officer Tim Sheppard said the location of the fire made access difficult.

"Finding your way to the back of some of these properties is quite a mission, particularly in big trucks. Of course, there's stock everywhere... People get very upset when they see their place threatened like this, understandably."

Mr Sheppard said a few olive orchards had been lost and paddocks around some homes had been burnt out, but there had been no structural losses.

He said evacuations were considered but in the end were not necessary.

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