MELISSA Ward had just seconds to unbuckle two of her young children and run from her family car before it was completely engulfed in flames.
The Branxton mother was travelling along Wine Country Drive on Sunday to pick up groceries for the week when the unthinkable happened.
"Smoke started to billow from under the bonnet and the rear of the car," she said.
"We pulled over straight away and myself and my partner jumped out. He yelled 'get the kids out, it's on fire'.
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"I just remember unclipping them and I had to reef my five year old out by the arm because he was worried about his toys, while still clinging to the three year old.
"Then we just ran. It took 13 minutes and the whole car was completely gone."
Just before leaving home Ms Ward had contemplated taking almost all of her six children for a Sunday drive, but her partner Jamie White had suggested leaving the other children to rest. In the end they took the younger children - Memphis, 3, and Axton, 5.
Memphis usually sits in the rear child seat so he can look out the back window, but in a twist of fate that would save his life the family had collected bags of cans for the Return and Earn scheme that were stacked in the back of the vehicle.
"If he had been strapped in that rear seat instead of up near the front, there is no way we would have got him out," Ms Ward said.
"I just keep thinking about it, it is heartbreaking.
"Thank god we got out in time."
Rural Fire Service crews raced out to the North Rothbury blaze about 1.45pm. By the time they reached the scene the vehicle was fully alight, the windows had exploded and the Holden Captiva was gutted.
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"We responded to this car fire, although the car was fully engulfed on our arrival," a statement from North Rothbury RFS said.
"We were very thankful that the young family were okay and at a safe distance."
Initial investigations suggested the fire was caused by faulty electricals, but the family were shocked to learn that Holden had recalled several models of the Captiva over fire risks, brake malfunctions and fuel leak issues.
The car had been purchased second-hand with a complete log book service history and the family had never been informed about a recall. Ms Ward has since contacted Holden about the incident, but was yet to get a response .
"You shouldn't have to worry about things like this when you buy a family car," she said.
"The worst thing about it was there was no lead up, no warning.
"No noise, nothing. I can't believe how quickly it disintegrated."
Ms Ward said it was the kindness of strangers and the help of the RFS that made her want to speak out about the traumatic incident.
"People stopped to check on us, they gave the kids food and water," she said.
"I have so much gratitude and I just want to say a really emotional thank you."
The family did have insurance on the car and while they will be able to get a new vehicle, the experience is something that will stay with them.
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