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Help on hand in train fire


When a train wagon caught fire at Ohingaiti yesterday afternoon, between Hunterville and Mangaweka, fire safety officer John Hotter was at the scene immediately.

In fact, he may have got there before the fire even started.

Mr Hotter, a Ruapehu-based fire officer, said he was driving home after investigating a fire in Palmerston North, when he saw what looked like smoke.

“It may have just been dust, but it looked like smoke coming from the opposite direction to the train,” he said.

Mr Hotter turned his vehicle around on State Highway 1 and drove alongside the smoky freight train.

He waved at the driver, who was already slowing down having worked out something was amiss, before radioing for help.

The wagon was carrying pulp or paper, which ignited.

Firefighters from Mangaweka and Taihape were at the scene quickly but were unable to fight the fire until they were sure overhead powerlines had been turned off and isolated by earthing straps.

Once extinguished, the blaze was found to be caused by the wheels from a wagon in the middle of the train which had left the tracks. The wagon continued to be dragged along, causing friction.

The rear wheels had gone through the bottom of the carriage and the axle had come away.

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