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Mechanic suffers minor injuries after auto-repair shop blaze

Fire damage to vehicles inside the Lambeth Service Centre. Liny Lamberink/AM980

One person suffered minor injuries trying to put out a fire inside an auto-repair shop in London, sparked by residual gasoline in the fuel tank of a vehicle he was working on.

“He was using a blowtorch, I believe, to heat up one of the ball joints, and that’s really what started the fire,” explained District Fire Chief Andy Britton, who says crews had the blaze under control within five minutes of arriving at Lambeth Service Centre in the city’s southwest end.

Britton says there were two mechanics in the shop at the time of the blaze; the man who suffered injuries refused an ambulance, but was advised to seek medical attention.

Police were the first to arrive on scene when the call came in around 12:30 p.m., and warned of potential explosions.

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“I heard a bang, but I always hear bangs coming from there,” said Joe Hackman, the shop manager of the neighbouring Stucco and Foam Centre, who went around to the back of the plaza-style building to see the shop engulfed in black smoke.

“There were flames all around the area; there was a car on fire inside. So the car was completely burning and there was buckets of oil burning and some gas on the ground burning – but the flames weren’t escaping the building because there’s no hole in the roof, and it was all smoke coming out. The fire was just contained inside.”

Fire Prevention Officer Jack Burt estimated the damage at $100,000, but said the investigation is in its early stages and the total cannot be finalized until the building has been examined.

“The garage itself was full of high-end electronics and a whole bunch of other items. So I think the loss would be significant,” Britton said.

Although crews were able to get the blaze under control quickly, Britton said the location proved to be difficult.

“There weren’t a lot of hydrants that we could access – the nearest one was on Wharncliffe Road,” he explained. “We would have had to do a relay. That’s why we were bringing in our tankers, and we were pumping from them. Our one pump ran out of water probably within the first five minutes.”

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Britton says since the property sits over a water well, the Ministry of Environment was called in to make sure gasoline and oil didn’t seep into the ground.

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