WHEN teenager Don Connell spotted a small fire in the engine of his beloved car he raced to the nearest shop to borrow a fire extinguisher.
But the 18-year-old says he could not believe it when staff refused to hand one over because it would cost them too much money to replace it.
Instead the trainee mechanic could only look on in horror as his Peugeot 106 burst into a fire ball.
Don’s 19-year-old car is now a write-off leaving him hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
The drama happened after he had left his girlfriend’s house to go to work when he noticed smoke coming from inside his car.
He ran to the One Stop on Butts Road in Sholing, Southampton, to ask to borrow their fire extinguisher only for them to refuse.
Instead flames tore through Don’s car while he was waiting for the fire crew, leaving it completely destroyed, along with his satnav, some clothes and college work. Don, of Sycamore Road, Shirley Warren, said: “It was the most horrible day of my life.
“I was just sat in the car listening to the radio and then smoke was coming out the fuse box. I went to the shop and asked them to use their fire extinguisher. They said no so I phoned the fire brigade.
“I’ve looked after the car and done quite a lot of work to it too, so I’ve lost quite a lot of money.
“It was quite a small fire but it grew while I was waiting for the fire brigade.
“I’ve used a fire extinguisher before, so what could have taken me ten minutes has put me in a lot of debt now. If they’d let me use the extinguisher I would have put the fire out before it got so big.”
Don’s boss at Shirley Garage, Terry Murphy, said: “I’m just absolutely staggered they didn’t let him use the fire extinguisher. “He’s fully trained in the use of fire extinguishers as he’s in a workshop environment and it would have meant that he didn’t have to call the fire brigade.
“The other thing is it would have saved his car. Now he’s lost the whole car.
“He’s a good lad. I feel desperately sorry for him.”
When asked if staff had refused to hand over the fire extinguisher because of the cost a One Stop spokesperson said it was due to safety reasons.
He said: “Our customer service assistant took the decision that the safest course of action in this instance was to let the fire brigade deal with what was already a large and potentially dangerous fire.”
A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said: “Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service would not encourage members of the public to tackle serious fires themselves.
“We would advise that they call 999 and stay in a safe place from the fire until emergency services are on the scene. “However, this highlights the importance of having a fire extinguisher to hand for use in small containable fires.”
Southampton taxi drivers have recently said that they will stop carrying fire extinguishers and first aid kits as they are worried about being sued if they try to protect their customers without he correct training.