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$750k goes up in smoke

A valuable piece of forest machinery has been reduced to a husk after a suspicious blaze. PHOTOS/MARY ARGUE

A three-year-old forestry machine valued at three-quarters of a million dollars is up in smoke just two weeks out from harvest.

The $750,000 Tigercat log processor in Tinui was a mere husk on Sunday morning after the machine was engulfed in a suspicious blaze, under investigation by both the fire service and police.

The owner of the 40-tonne machine, who preferred to remain unnamed, said all the fuel had been siphoned from its 1000-litre diesel tank, before, he suspected, the cab was deliberately set alight.

“She’s f***ed.

“They’ve stolen fuel and batteries before. Obviously this time, they’ve had more fun.”

The owner said he learned the nearly million-dollar machine was ablaze after a call from a resident.

When he arrived, the machine was a shell, with flames spilling out from the cab.

Earlier on Sunday morning, a farmer had learned of the blaze and gone to the rescue with a home fire extinguisher.

“All the oil and stuff was leaking out of it. Fire was coming out the main guts of the engine.

“Whatever was flammable was on fire.

“My little house fire extinguisher … there was no point.”

By the time Masterton and Tinui fire brigades were called to attend at 10am, about 90 per cent of the machine was damaged.

Masterton Station Officer Kevin Smith said the brigades worked to extinguish the last of the fire and dampened the hotspots.

He said it was clear the fire had been burning for some time, likely overnight into Sunday morning, and it was being treated as suspicious.

The owner said it was the second attack on the machine in the past couple of months, and while he had insurance, was anticipating a huge spike in his premiums.

The log processor had been parked at the Tinui Valley Rd and Te Mai Rd intersection waiting for a break in the weather.

A nearby pine-harvesting job was due to start in two weeks.

A forestry worker who drove the machine and was at the scene on Sunday morning said he did not believe the initial reports of a fire.

“I didn’t believe them when they said it was on fire, that’s why I came down.

“There were flames coming out everywhere.”

He said losing the specialist machine meant the upcoming job might have been to be pushed

“We’ve had all this rain, and now it’s fine.

“You can’t just go hire one. It could have done the whole job, but now we might need two or three [different machines].”

Fire and Emergency said a fire investigator was at the scene on Sunday.

Police said inquiries to determine the circumstances of the fire were ongoing.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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