Passers-by alerted a Northland woman that her car was on fire after she pulled over with engine troubles on her way to work.

Opua practice nurse Susan Kitchener found her car had a flat tyre when she was about to drive to work yesterday, so she borrowed her husband's prized 2007 Saab convertible instead.

She had just driven though Ohaeawai about 8.20am when she felt the car lose power. The accelerator didn't respond and a warning light came on so she pulled on to the shoulder.

Kaikohe firefighter Sarah Strathdee, wearing a breathing apparatus to guard against the fumes, douses the flames after a Saab convertible caught fire on SH12. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF
Kaikohe firefighter Sarah Strathdee, wearing a breathing apparatus to guard against the fumes, douses the flames after a Saab convertible caught fire on SH12. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF

Lauren Browne, from Kaikohe, was heading in the opposite direction to drop her daughter at school, when she saw flames licking under the Saab's engine bay.

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"I thought, I have to get her out."

Ms Browne pulled over and alerted Ms Kitchener, the pair calling 111 and retreating a safe distance down the highway.

Kaikohe deputy fire chief Wiremu Matene said flames were coming out of the partly melted bonnet when the brigade arrived. The engine was destroyed but a firewall had stopped the blaze spreading to the rest of the car. The cause had yet to be determined.

The practice manager at Broadway Health, where Ms Kitchener works, came out to make sure she was okay.

The fire occurred near the crest of a hill and left one lane partly blocked. Roading contractors, who happened to be passing by, took care of traffic control.

A shaken but still upbeat Ms Kitchener said she was pleased no one had been hurt. The car was insured.