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Taupō family narrowly escapes car in flames

Kat Money and the five children in the car with her just managed to escape the car before it engulfed in flames. Photo: Stuff.

A small puff of smoke from a family's car air vent had been the only warning.

But less than a minute later, the 2008 Toyota Highlander was engulfed in flames and Kat Money barely had time to pull her toddlers from their seats.

Money and five children - her two children, two stepchildren and niece - had been driving to Paradise Valley Springs on Thursday around midday.

"I just thought oh smoke and pulled over, pulled my kids out ... and it was on fire. It was in flames."

Then all four tyres exploded, one by one. 

Emergency Services attended the blaze on State Highway 5 in Rotorua, near the Waikite Rd intersection. The car had been completely charred, as had the surrounding scrub. 

Nobody had been injured - just shaken, says Kat.

Driver after driver stopped to see if Money, standing near the flaming car with five children, including two toddlers, was okay. 

"We had a really lovely couple stop in a campervan so I could put my kids in the campervan. They gave us a water and looked after us," she says.

"It only dawned on me later - and that's when we all started crying - when we realised it was only a minute later that the whole front was engulfed and that's where we had been sitting." 

Money has insurance, but she's baffled as to what could have caused such a sudden fire. 

There hadn't been any flashing lights on the dash board and the car had been serviced six months ago, she says.

But it had been a reminder to "hug your children". 

"It was a minute away from being different."

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