Southsea garage owner is devastated after fire guts workshop

DEVASTATION Saide Gul-Sheikhani at his fire-hit garage in Southsea.      Picture: Sarah Standing (112417-1838)
DEVASTATION Saide Gul-Sheikhani at his fire-hit garage in Southsea. Picture: Sarah Standing (112417-1838)

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A GARAGE owner has described the terrifying moment when a fire tore through his business.

Saide Gul-Sheikhani was carrying out repairs underneath a Ford Focus when suddenly a blaze started in the car’s engine.

He used a fire extinguisher in a desperate bid to put out the blaze but it quickly spread and engulfed A2Z Motor Services in Southsea.

Firefighters arrived and battled to control it – inadvertently knocking Mr Gul-Sheikhani off his feet with powerful jets of water, unaware he was inside.

Now the bruised and distraught businessman has been left to pick up the pieces after what he estimates is at least £45,000 worth of damage.

‘I cannot believe it,’ he said. ‘We didn’t even realise anything was wrong until someone ran into the garage shouting “get out, get out, the car is on fire”.

‘I moved out the cars that I could and then we grabbed fire extinguishers to try and put it out, but even six bottles wasn’t enough.

‘So I turned to leave and water hit me and pushed me to the ground. I tried to get up and it hit me again, forcing me down.’

Firefighters trying to put out the blaze could not see Mr Gul-Sheikhani because of the thick black smoke pouring out of his garage on Tuesday night. They were also desperate to act quickly because of reports that explosive acetylene gas cylinders could be inside.a

This caused them to set up a 656ft exclusion zone around Francis Avenue, in Southsea, as reported in The News yesterday, but Mr Gul-Sheikhani insisted there was never any danger.

He said: ‘I do not have these cylinders lying around in my garage, I am not that stupid.

‘Someone told them that and they shouldn’t have, because they don’t know what is inside my garage.’

It was later established that there was only one cylinder – and it was in a cupboard not involved in the fire.

Surveying his fire-hit workplace, Mr Gul-Sheikhani said: ‘It makes me so sad. Just looking at it makes me feel terrible. When I lived in Iraq my house was burned many times, so I have seen damage like this before. It is a tragedy, and I just need to pick myself up and try not to think about it.’

Four cars were damaged in the blaze, three of them beyond repair, but no-one was seriously injured.

Yani Akram, 26, who was also working in the garage when the fire started, said: ‘I have never seen anything like it before. It spread so quickly and we couldn’t do anything to stop it.’

Fire service spokeswoman Jo Gray said: ‘There will not be an investigation into the cause of Tuesday’s fire. It is not deemed to be suspicious and is thought to have started in an engine compartment of one of the cars.’