A Wellington man says he's lucky to be alive after his cellphone shielded him from the worst of a fiery explosion last week.

Carlucci Land creator Carl Gifford is recovering in his Owhiro Bay home after suffering severe burns to his hands, neck and face, but he told the Herald he wasn't feeling better after his release from Hutt Hospital's burns unit.

"I don't even know if I should be at home to be honest."

Mr Gifford was fielding a call from a mate on his Samsung when a fire erupted as he cleared a firebreak on a hill in Happy Valley last Thursday. The flames burned his hands, neck and face.


It is believed the digger he was using may have caught fire after pine needles got caught in the hot exhaust.

He returned to the digger to try to put out the fire before calling 111, when a friend called to tell him he could see smoke on the hill.

It was then the digger exploded.

Because he was holding his phone to the front of his face, Mr Gifford avoided damage to his airways and the phone took the brunt of the flames, along with Mr Gifford's hands.

The outline of the phone is still visible on Mr Gifford's face nearly a week later.

"I'm bloody lucky and I know I'm lucky," he said, acknowledging he could have died if he hadn't had that small piece of protection.

However, a week on it was still hard to recognise his own reflection.

"You look in the mirror and just think 'crikey'."

"I'm worried I'm going to look like this for the rest of my life. I'm no oil painting but it's horrible."