Holiday cut short by fire

Just one day into their planned two-week riverside camping holiday in the Lindis Pass, Christchurch woman Peta Pool and her grandson Justice (16) were facing a long drive back to Canterbury after their pop top caravan burnt to the ground yesterday.

The pair had arrived on Christmas Day at their regular summer holiday camping spot just off State Highway 8 and slightly south of the Lindis Pass summit in an area known as Goodger Flat.

They were sitting outside their camper van next to the Lindis River shortly after 1pm yesterday when their mobile lodgings suddenly went up in flames. Although they and other campers tried to put out the fire using mats and water from the river, the caravan was completely gutted in ''probably less than 10 minutes'', Justice said.

His grandmother flagged down a passing motorist who had called the fire brigade. However, the fire was virtually out by the time the Central Otago rural fire water tanker arrived from Tarras. Police and a fire crew from Luggate also responded.

Rural Fire Officer Mark Davidson, of Tarras, said based on eyewitness accounts, the fire appeared to have started around the gas-powered fridge. Friends of the Pools who arrived yesterday to join them on their camping holiday were shocked to see just a smoking pile of debris where the caravan should have been parked.

Ms Pool told the Otago Daily Times her holiday was over and she had no choice but to drive back home to Christchurch.

After sifting through the charred remains of her caravan, which was fully insured, she was able to recover some of her rings. However, she had still not located her only set of car keys among the ash by the time the firefighters left the scene, Mr Davidson later said.