A body has been found in the Franz Josef workshop which was flattened by a bulldozer and then torched by its owner last night.

The body has not been formally identified but it is believed to be Clive Jenkins, the owner of the workshop, Franz Josef Mechanical.

Jenkins fought with his partner before he mounted a bulldozer carrying a number of firearms wrapped in a blanket. The bulldozer had a barrel of oil in its bucket.

Jenkins flattened the workshop and then set it alight.

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His distraught partner told a neighbour the couple were arguing before last night's destructive rampage, which left the large Donovan Drive property in ruins.

Today detectives and fire investigators sifted through the burned-out shell of the Franz Josef Mechanical business to determine what happened.

A spokesman said a woman called police around 7.40pm saying her partner was driving a bulldozer over the large workshop and adjoining house and that it was now on fire.

One of the first people at the scene, Franz Alpine Retreat manager Keith Hartley, said a woman arrived on his doorstep, drenched after a frantic 400m dash for help.

"She was extremely distressed, dripping wet and she had lost her shoe.

"As she walked in she said, 'look, we had a fight and the place is on fire'.

"She also said her partner was inside."

Hartley, who had just taken over managing the West Coast resort retreat, said he jumped in his ute and raced to the mechanic's two-storey property to see if there was any chance of saving him.

But he was greeted by an inferno.

The building engulfed in flames at Franz Josef. Photo / Chanell Van der Weshuizen
The building engulfed in flames at Franz Josef. Photo / Chanell Van der Weshuizen

"By the time I got there the place was completely on fire.

"I yelled out if anyone was inside but there's no way anyone inside could have heard me over the noise of the fire.

"The windows were blowing out and there were explosions going on inside and I couldn't do anything. It was just too dangerous and I high-tailed it."

He said this morning the property was just a burned-out shell.

Photo / Greymouth Star
Photo / Greymouth Star

"I don't think there's anything left inside," he said.

The woman was now being cared for by nearby residents and police.

Locals say Jenkins was a popular and hardworking mechanic who snapped yesterday, taking his frustrations out on his own property using heavy earthmoving equipment to flatten it before destroying everything in a spectacular blaze.