Shocking CCTV footage shows how thick black smoke filled an 18,000 square ft car showroom in Northampton within a matter of minutes - all because of a charging camera battery.
But the damage to SJN Motors on Harlestone Road could have been much worse according to owner Malcolm Railson who has praised the quick thinking actions of Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue, which put the flames out within a matter of minutes.
CCTV footage shows that last night at around 5.38pm, half-an-hour after staff had left the showroom, smoke started to appear from an office area. By 5.40pm the camera was completely obscured by smoke and burning embers.
The heat in the building tripped a burglar alarm at SJN Motors and the security company called Mr Railson straight away.
In what he describes as a horrifying moment, he then logged onto his CCTV system using his phone.
“I could just see lots of thick smoke drifting across.
At first I thought someone had broken in and was spraying the camera lens with something.
“But then I realised it was a fire.”
When he arrived at the scene he said the entire glass showroom was blacked out, almost as if the lights had been turned off.
Luckily though, despite smoke damage to around £55,000 worth of vehicles in the showroom and a gutted office, the rest of the premises has survived largely unscathed.
Mr Railson said it “could have been so much worse” considering the amount of extremely flammable items on the site.
Thanks to a remarkable effort from staff, many of whom worked through the night to set up a temporary sales office, the car lot is open again today.
But Mr Railson has warned of the dangers of leaving lithium batteries overnight to charge,
Only a fortnight ago Trading Standards officers in Northamptonshire warned Christmas shoppers to be cautious before buying a “hoverboard,” tipped to be one of this year’s most popular festive gifts, because of overheating batteries.
The fire at SJN Motors was caused by a new camera, which had been left on a desk to charge overnight,
“Don’t take the risk overnight, Just unplug the bloody things,” he said.