A HUGE fire was narrowly averted thanks to quick-thinking by staff after a van caught alight in a petrol station.
Martyn Simmons had just filled his white Ford Transit van with diesel yesterday morning when a blaze started in its engine.
Terrified that the fuel in the Total garage’s pumps could ignite, the 51-year-old raced into the shop to raise the alarm.
Southsea firefighters were called at 8.15am and managed to extinguish the fire, which had engulfed the front of the van.
Afterwards, they praised staff for quickly switching off the station’s pumps and evacuating customers.
Mr Simmons, of Guildford Road, in Fratton, said: ‘When I went to start it up I saw smoke coming from underneath the bonnet.
‘I jumped out and saw the flames so I ran into the shop in a panic. There were other cars around and I was worried the place was going to go up.
‘It’s lucky the pumps were switched off before anything could happen.’
He added that he had only just left home to take some clothes to the launderette when he pulled into the garage.
‘Being Christmas there wasn’t anything in my van, but it’s still not a nice thing to happen, especially at this time of year,’ he said.
David Jeffery was working in the garage, in Arundel Street, Landport, when the fire took place.
‘The driver paid for his fuel and left the shop, only to come running back in moments later saying his van was on fire,’ he said.
‘You could see the flames under his car spreading to the bonnet – it was pretty hairy.
‘In 16 years of working here I’ve never seen a fire before, but obviously I switched the pumps off straight away.
‘I was in a bit of a panic and when I called the fire service I definitely made sure they knew that the fire was in a petrol station.’
Southsea watch manager Peter Scott said: ‘There’s always danger when you have a fire in a petrol station, but the staff member did exactly the right thing.
‘He acted quickly to turn off the petrol and evacuate the garage. He couldn’t have done any more. All we needed to do was put out the fire and move the vehicle out of the way.’