Couple leaps clear as tractor erupts into flames

A pair of North Cowichan farmers smelled smoke and jumped clear of this tractor just before it caught fire on a Richards Trail farm Sunday. - Kevin Wheeler
A pair of North Cowichan farmers smelled smoke and jumped clear of this tractor just before it caught fire on a Richards Trail farm Sunday.
— image credit: Kevin Wheeler

Two farmers escaped the scare of their lives Sunday afternoon with little more than rapid heart rates and soot-stained skin and clothing.

The pair likely escaped serious injury when they leaped from tractor working a field off Richards Trail in North Cowichan just before it erupted into flames.

Chemainus resident Kevin Wheeler was driving along Richards Trail on a wildlife photo-hunting expedition when the scene unfolded in front of his eyes.

“I rounded a corner and saw a whole bunch of black smoke. As I got to the edge of a long field, I could see a tractor on fire halfway down the field. The firefighter in me immediately thought ‘I hope nobody is still in there,’” he said.

“The road follows the field, so I hit the gas and raced over to where the tractor was nearest the road.

“Just as I was jumping out of the truck, an older man and women came my way. Both of them were covered head to toe in black soot. I asked if anyone was trapped in there and they said ‘no.’

“They had been on the tractor and she smelled something burning. The both decided to leap from the tractor only seconds before it exploded in flames.

Wheeler confirmed they were unhurt, then retreated back to the edge of the field to get some photos, as fire trucks arrived to douse the flames.

“It was quite spectacular to see, and I felt relieved that the couple was OK,” Wheeler said.

Mike Dunn, deputy chief of the Maple Bay fire department, said three trucks and 12 to 14 firefighters responded on high alert because of the dry weather conditions. Quick response and the fortuitous location of where the tractor erupted worked in their favour. It was essentially parked on dirt.

“It was fortunate that field had just been freshly plowed,” Dunn said.

The incident happened at about 2:40 p.m. in the 7500 block of Richards Trail. At this point it is not clear who the couple was or what caused the blaze.

Dunn did not get a chance to speak to the farmers, but was also told they were unharmed.

The tractor was a total loss.

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