The Invercargill Fire Service and police are investigating a suspicious fire lit at a car wrecker's yard yesterday.
Several fire trucks were needed to bring the fire under control, and road blocks and cordons were put up around the site in Otepuni Avenue, Newfield to protect people from the toxic smoke and fumes.
Manager of BR Electric Motor Rewinds Neil Ramsay said his family had owned the business for 15 years, and he arrived at the scene to billowing black smoke, and the smell of paint being burned off the cars.
"There was a drum fire started on the edge of the fence, and it caught all the cars on fire in my yard," he said.
"There were flames, but we couldn't see much because of the smoke."
He said the yard was almost four hectares, with about 1000 cars in it, and he hoped the damage to the property was not too extensive.
"I'm not too worried about the cost, but I am a bit worried about the sentimental items, like my dad's tools," he said.
Mr Ramsay said there were also some classic cars on the site that he was doing up with his friends, and when they heard about the fire they came down to the yard so they could go and check on them as-soon-as possible.
Mr Ramsay's mother Janice Ramsay said she was terrified when she heard the yard was on fire.
"My son's got a couple of cars stored at the front, and there are cars they're doing up at the back, so they're more worried about the cars - but I'm worried about the tools" she said.
She said they belonged to her late husband.
Ms Ramsay said it was upsetting the fire was being treated as suspicious.
"Somebody's going to be accountable, but who we don't know yet.
"But yeah, it's not the best."
A spokesperson from the Invercargill Fire Service said they started winding the operation back late last night, using a digger to shift some of the cars to look for hotspots and any deep-seated fire.
The spokesperson said they would be keeping a watch on what's happening overnight.
He said there were a few buildings threatened, but crews were able to stop them from catching fire, and that the fire was basically limited to old car wrecks and a rubbish truck that was on the property.