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Bus blaze treated as suspicious

Featherston residents saw an old bus ablaze early Sunday morning. PHOTO/MARY ARGUE

Featherston bus fire considered ‘an oddity’

A bus fire in Featherston on Sunday morning had residents worried about further explosions.

An old bus, parked on a Bethune St property, was seen ablaze at about 7am.

Nearby residents were alerted to the fire by a thick column of black smoke rising 12m high above the property.

A neighbour opposite said the fire was “massive” and that he had been worried for the people and house next door.

He said there had been concerns that vehicles near the blaze would also go up in flames.

“You don’t know if they’d blow up too.”

One woman said she could see the smoke rising from her house near Remutaka Hill.

Her son shared a fence line with the property and had woken to the fire by his dog barking.

Featherston chief fire officer Colin McKenna said a call came into the station shortly before 7am on Sunday.

He said no one was living at the property and suspected the fire had been deliberately lit.

McKenna said two fire trucks and about 10 officers attended the blaze, which “was all over and done with in half an hour”.

The old bus was one of several abandoned vehicles on the property.

Vehicles near the fire had been charred and had melted taillights and blown out rear windows.

Nearby trees had also received a roasting, and hours later, it was still possible to detect the acrid smell of burning rubber.

The blaze left the bus wholly gutted, with only a steel frame where the windows and roof used to be. The only survivor in the interior was what looked to be a small cast iron wood burner.

Only a blackened bus shell remained when Wellington district fire investigator Peter Fox attended the scene.

He said it was improbable the bus had spontaneously combusted, especially at that hour of the morning.

He said that in his experience, bus fires were usually the result of a crash, or on rare occasions, an overheated engine.

“It’s an oddity.”

Fox was on call on Sunday covering the lower North Island from Ohau, near Levin, to Mt Bruce.

Without confirming arson, he said police would receive a report, and any further investigation would be at their discretion.

Fox did not know who the property owner was but said they had been contacted.

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