The second of two suspicious fires within an hour of each other ensured that members of the Cobden Volunteer Fire Brigade saw in the New Year with a bang.
Cobden fire chief Gary Pollock said the brigade was called first to a car fire in Newcastle Street about 1am and had just returned from that when it was advised that an unoccupied house in Peel Street was ablaze.
"When we arrived the house fire was quite contained, just a bit of smoke billowing from it, but all of a sudden there was a bit of wind and the whole thing exploded," Mr Pollock said.
Firefighters were far enough away from the eruption to escape injury, but he said there could have been serious consequences had they been closer.
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"We ended sounding a second alarm, which brought in help from the Greymouth, Brunner and Runanga brigades but there was little we could do ... the house was gutted."
It was 5am by the time the engine was back at the station but it was to return to the Peel Street site twice more during the day, first to dampen down a hot spot when the fire inspector was examining the scene in the morning and later to secure roofing iron which was flapping around in the strong winds.
"There was not much holding it (the iron), the roof having collapsed into the structure in the inferno," Mr Pollock said.
Fire Service Tasman assistant commander Mark Boere said an investigation had been completed but he was unable to comment on the outcome, except that the report was going to the Greymouth CIB.
Sergeant Matthew Frost, of the Greymouth police, said both fires were "suspicious" and inquiries were continuing.
- Tui Bromley of the Greymouth Star