Workshop Fire - Faine 377

By: Jon Faine

Presented by

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Jon's sobering tale of bargain electrics and their potential to turn your passion into ashes

From Unique Cars #377, July 2015

Tony runs a garage. A proper one. Professional like. Main road, big workshop, four hoists, twenty cars through a day. Family business. Brothers three. Staff. Office, storage, Kitchen. Been going very successfully for years.

Tony buys one of the new fangled gadgets that jump start a car. Tiny thing, the size of a paperback book. Packs a punch though. Does everything a big battery pack jump starter can do. And more. All for a hundred and fifty bucks.

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"Do you want one, Jon? Cheaper if I buy a few," was the offer too good to refuse.

When they arrived, they looked terrific. Fancy zip up case. Real vinyl. Padded insides, dozens of different little adaptors to connect even to your pacemaker.

Took mine home, plugged it in, watched the little LED flash. Instructions recommend leaving it on 12 hours the first time you charge it up - so left it on overnight. All good so far.

Put it away, looking forward to using it sometime.

Tony did the same with his. Plugged it in, left it on the strip-down bench overnight to charge. Pulled down the roller door, went home to annoy his family.

Two in the morning, Tony is woken by the phone. "Your workshop is ablaze, you ought be here to watch."

Roller Door

Fire trucks, police, lights, sirens, hoses, chaos. Rear roller door sliced open with a massive cutter. An ‘X’ through the middle, peeled open like a lolly wrapper.
Customers cars covered in crud, water, soot and ash.

The strip-down bench just a smouldering heap. Tools and parts reduced to molten piles of aluminium. Steel twisted from heat. The stench of plastic and rubber burning. Tony surveys the debris – the damaged wall and ceiling, roof panels, air hoses, tyre changer, wheel balancer, engine crane, trolley jacks, laptop, engine analyser, phone system, compressor, hand and power tools and on and on it goes.

The fire brigade investigators, the Arson Squad, the insurance assessors all descend. They take a nanosecond to establish the cause. An unapproved, thus illegal, voltage adapter built into the wall plug of the battery pack, still connected to the power point. All sold and supplied by a well-known national chain of suppliers to the trade.

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Two days of clean up, a week of lost work, a month of re-equipping the workshop, two months of arguing with the insurers. At least now the equipment has been replaced, but the building repairs are still being negotiated.

The customer cars were all repaired and detailed at the insurer’s expense. The lost work has been calculated and settled. Tony has more grey hair than he used to. It suits him, makes him distinguished.

This is a true story. That is how easily it can happen. If it had been my battery pack with the faulty plug then it would have been my shed that burned not Tony’s garage. I would have lost thirty years of collecting. Five cars. Countless spares hoarded for projects I will never do. The Lotus badge around which one day I can build a car. The hubcaps you cannot get for the car I will never own. The spare motor and the spare to the spare. The irreplaceable bits from across the world that are slowly coming together to bring my fantasy project to fruition. I break out into a sweat just thinking about it.

Be careful. Check your insurance. And you get what you pay for.

 

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