A woman is fighting for her life and police have launched an investigation after a car explosion in West Auckland.

Neighbours rescued the badly burned woman from beside a flaming car after it exploded yesterday about 8am on Bayside Ave, Te Atatu Peninsula.

"I ran outside and saw a woman on fire, standing there," said a neighbour, who was the second person to arrive.

A small grey car had caught fire and exploded, leaving a woman with critical burns and rousing the entire neighbourhood.

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The woman is in a critical condition this morning in the intensive care unit at Middlemore Hospital.

Police are investigating the explosion.

The neighbour, who did not want to be named, tried to get the woman away from the flaming vehicle with the help of another local, but she collapsed.

"We tried to drag her away from the vehicle, but as we rolled her over we saw no vital signs. We thought she was dead.

"Her whole body had been on fire, and her skin was badly burned.

"As we tried to drag her away we couldn't get any grip, her skin was just coming off."

At this point other neighbours arrived on the scene.

As they thought the woman was dead they shifted their focus to the car fire.

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"It continued to accelerate and we thought it might explode again. The flames were huge. A tree nearby was nearly burning down.

"We were keeping neighbours away, and emergency services were on their way.

"Soon after that we noticed her start moving again, and our attention turned back to trying to get her away from the car.

"Four of us went in and dragged her away. People had hoses out and wet sheets ready to put over her."

The fire brigade arrived shortly after and "quickly" put out the fire and shortly after an ambulance crew wrrived and began treating the woman.

"It was pretty intense. I am amazed she is still alive," the neighbour said.

"It was really awesome how everybody on the scene worked together to help out.

"I have never been involved in something like that before. I am def not a hero, I was just on the scene."

He said he had no idea how the car caught fire.

Peter Robinson, who lives around the corner on Totara Rd, said the explosion was a "heck of a whoomph".

"There was a great cloud of black smoke and massive flames coming out of the property."

Another neighbour said nine police cars turned up.

"They cordoned off the footpath and were interviewing people. We went out for a couple of hours and by the time we returned the car had been taken away for an investigation.

"Nobody knows why the car exploded."

A police spokeswoman said the investigation was continuing and no results were expected for another few days.

The woman was taken to Auckland Hospital yesterday morning in a critical condition from the burns and transferred later in the morning to the burns unit at Middlemore Hospital.

A hospital spokeswoman this morning said the woman was still in a critical condition in the intensive care unit.