Bad as it was, it could have been a whole lot worse.
A Westfalia camper van burst into flames after its owners had fueled up and were preparing to set out on their way again from the Shell gas station on the Esplanade in Ladysmith.
No-one was injured in the incident, which happened at about 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24. The two occupants of the vehicle were able to get out unharmed, and the station attendant immediately hit the kill button shutting down the fuel pumps.
But there was still extensive damage to the station’s awning and one of its pumps, and the van was destroyed. As well, Ladysmith firefighters had to contend with a blaze that flared several times, the risk increased by the full load of fuel and a propane tank on the vehicle.
Fire Chief Ray Delcourt said the incident is under investigation. “Possibly there was a malfunction somewhere on the vehicle,” he said.
There were reports of the driver having difficulty starting the van, and it backfiring before the fire erupted.
Because of the propane tank and the full load of fuel, the fire posed an extra hazard. “You can see the risks to the firefighters when they’re walking into these things,” Delcourt said. “We make sure going into them that we’ve got proper protection.”
Although the cause of the fire has not been determined, and Delcourt said it may be difficult to pinpoint due to the extent of the damage, he suggested people do routine maintenance on their vehicles and get any problems attended to.
“People should do proper maintenance and checks so that we don’t see these kinds of fires developing,” he suggested, pointing out that if a similar fire broke out in a car park or garage the consequences could have been much worse.
It was a busy weekend for Ladysmith Fire and Rescue, which also had to respond to a structure fire on Fourth Avenue Sunday night.
That incident, which resulted in extensive damage to a house, is also under investigation.