The owner of Big O Tire is thankful for the community support that has been pouring in after a vehicle caught fire inside the business Tuesday afternoon, spreading to the rest of the building, causing significant damage and sending one employee to hospital.
Around 3:15 p.m. on Sept. 8, fire crews from Langford, Colwood and View Royal were called to Big O Tire West Shore, at 1705 Island Hwy. Inside the shop, employees were working on a van, which required them to remove the fuel tank in order to replace the fuel pump.
“[They were] putting the tank back up and some fuel spilt and somehow something ignited,” said Don Swindell, owner.
Swindell ran into the building after being notified of the fire and saw “flames all over the floor, flames on the employee, flames on the gas tank.”
His first thought was to help his employee.
“I had to get to that employee, get the flames put out and get him out of the flames and out of harm’s way.”
Using the only thing he had, which was the shirt off his back, Swindell was able to help put out the fire on the man’s legs while another employee put out the fire in his abdomen area. The employee was transported to hospital from the scene but was released later that day with third-degree burns to his shin area.
According to Swindell, staff emptied all the fire extinguishers on site but the blaze was out of control.
“The fuel tank was like a rocket, shooting up just like a jet fighter engine, blowing up and it was making that roaring noise.”
But Swindell did get some good news Wednesday morning. After an inspection by View Royal Fire Rescue, Swindell was told the integrity of the building is in good shape.
Inside the building, the heat from the fire rose and vented through the roof, which left most of the equipment on the ground “amazingly intact,” he said.
However, the van that employees were working on when the fire started was home to two travellers from England. According to a GoFundMe set up for the couple, the fire destroyed “everything they had.”
Swindell said he’s going to try and help the couple by “getting them mobile” with a new vehicle.
The tire shop employs six people who are temporarily out of work, but Swindell is hoping to be back up and running soon.
In the meantime, he’s been struck by the community support he’s received.
“It’s one of those things where it’s pretty neat to see when you’re at your lowest moment, people are reaching out to you, trying to help so I’m grateful for that.”