It was a bad day at VW Heritage yesterday as over 50 staff were evacuated from our building in Burgess Hill, standing well away while we watched flames engulf our T25 Caravelle, before the Fire Brigade had arrived it had spread to claim 4 others and damage a couple more.
The fire started at approximately 2.30pm on Tuesday 22nd April.Our 1988 T25 Caravelle, was being moved from our car park by resident technician Benjamin Parsons. He explains further “After we couldn’t start the van in the morning, I charged the battery. The van started first time but within seconds the engine cut out, and I heard a loud bang. The engine lid, closely followed by flames exploded into the van and headed for the cab area (closest to the FlowServe building next door). I ran for help, but by the time we had returned with fire extinguishers, the van was ablaze and way beyond our fire fighting capabilities.” The remains of the rear mounted engine can be seen below.
The alarm was raised and all staff from VW Heritage and Meyle UK were evacuated and accounted for. Neighbouring business FlowServe were also evacuated, with over 100 members of their team staring on in disbelief. Smoked filled the sky, pops and bangs indicated the fire was spreading as more tyres burst and fuel tanks exploded.
The Fire Service came as quickly as possible (it seems like a lifetime when you are watching things burn) and were into action straight away. It was too late for the vehicles parked adjacent to the instigator. We lost our company van and a Silver Mercedes parked beyond it was also claimed. With out a doubt the biggest tragedy of the day was the Early Bay window bus belonging to our Trade Sales manager Ben, and to add to his misery his New VW Beetle was lost in the fire too, being parked next to the Mercedes.
Ben found out in real time about the fate of his cars; although currently in Spain. Sales Director (and friend) Barney called him to let him know of the terrible news. Ben had been working on his Bus at weekends with staff and friends getting it ready for a 6 month road trip of a lifetime around Europe.
VW Heritage founder David Ward summed up the bad day with the following statement “We are all OK and that is the main thing. We all did our best, and of course learned a couple of lessons from the days events too. As a company we are very close, and we are all feeling the pain of our colleague and friend Ben, who has been the most affected by today’s fire losing his pride and joy Campervan so close to his big trip”.
Elaborating on the above David confirms “this accident, was just that. The van was being moved in our car park, exactly the same as anyone else would move a vehicle in our car park. No one was to know it would catch alight and that the fire would consume so many other vehicles, it happened so much quicker than any of us would imagine. It is a stark reminder that fire can cause so much devastation to older vehicles. ”
Above: Web Designer Dave’s Peugeot had a lucky escape, with only a smashed rear window and a melted rear light and bumper.
We would like to end this sad story with a message of thanks to everyone in the VW scene for their words of support and condolences for the loss of these vehicles. We have had hundereds of messages from Facebook, Forums, Twitter and Instagram not to mention newspapers and websites covering this incident.