A CAR salesman had a lucky escape after the vehicle he had just taken for a test drive burst into flames on the garage forecourt.
Jeff Brader had just returned from test-driving the used Vauxhall Zafira at around 2.20pm on Tuesday when the vehicle set on fire, scorching the frontage of Harrisons Garage and threatening the safety of nearby flats.
“I really had to act quickly,” said Mr Brader. “I ran in, dialled 999, came back out and moved the cars that were either side of it because it was starting to go. I was worried that if it all went up, there is a building next door and there’s old people in there.”
The story was especially fortunate in that the car had just been traded in by a young family with two small children, so if the incident had occurred just days before it could have had far more serious consequences.
“It’s horrendous,” added Mr Brader. “We tried to put it out with our own extinguishers but it just kept going.”
The car was well alight when Whitby’s fire crew arrived just a short time later. Watch manager Chris Watson said the fire crew had been about to leave on an exercise when they received the call. The station is located just around the corner, on Back St Hilda’s Terrace, and WM Watson said: “If we had been another 10 minutes the whole building would have been up in flames.”
Mr Brader had returned from a run in the car and parked it on the forecourt. He had put it for sale and noticed smoke coming from the dashboard. “I went round to the bonnet to see what was happening, it looked more like steam than smoke,” he said. “But by the time I looked back, the car was full of smoke. After 25 years in the business, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
He added: “If you ever see smoke coming out of a car just get out of it. Walk away, because that went up in a matter of minutes.”
The flames caused damage to signage to the front of the building and a showroom window was cracked as firefighters tackled the blaze. It is estimated the damage will cost thousands of pounds to repair.
The cause is believed to have been a fault in the vehicle’s electrical system.