A boat has gone up in flames while it was being towed on SH11 near Opua creating a column of smoke visible for many kilometres. Paihia deputy fire chief Sandro Schuetze said the driver saw flames behind him and other motorists trying to flag him down, so he pulled into a parking bay opposite Pine Lodge and managed to unhook the boat trailer just in time to stop the fire spreading to his vehicle. There was nothing he could do but watch the fibreglass boat burn while he waited for the fire brigade. The cause of the fire, about 3pm on Monday was unknown. Witnesses spoke of huge flames leaping in the air and a column of black smoke that could be seen from Russell.