New Year fire suspicious

Volunteer firefighters were lucky to escape serious injury when a smouldering West Coast house "exploded" in flames during a wind gust.

The blaze one on two suspicious fires early on New Year's Day attended by the Cobden Volunteer Fire Brigade.

Fire chief Gary Pollock said the brigade was called first to a car fire in Newcastle Street about 1am and had just returned from that when it was advised that an unoccupied house in Peel Street was ablaze.

"When we arrived the house fire was quite contained, just a bit of smoke billowing from it, but all of a sudden there was a bit of wind and the whole thing exploded," Mr Pollock said.

Firefighters were far enough away from the eruption to escape injury, but he said there could have been serious consequences had they been closer.

"We ended sounding a second alarm, which brought in help from the Greymouth, Brunner and Runanga brigades but there was little we could do ... the house was gutted."

It was 5am by the time the engine was back at the station but it was to return to the Peel Street site twice more during the day, first to dampen down a hot spot when the fire inspector was examining the scene in the morning and later to secure roofing iron which was flapping around in the strong winds.

"There was not much holding it (the iron), the roof having collapsed into the structure in the inferno," Mr Pollock said.

Fire Service Tasman assistant commander Mark Boere said an investigation had been completed but he was unable to comment on the outcome, except that the report was going to the Greymouth CIB.

Sergeant Matthew Frost, of the Greymouth police, said both fires were "suspicious" and inquiries were continuing.


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