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Debbie Jarvis tackled a van on fire at Shell garage petrol station on the A20 Ashford Road just off the M20 near the Stop 24 services

A woman has told how she helped tackle a fire which threatened to engulf a van on a busy petrol station forecourt.

A Canadian couple had been driving the hire van to an art exhibition in London on Monday but were forced to get out at the Shell garage on the A20 Ashford Road - just off the M20 Hythe turn-off - when flames began wrapping around their feet.

Quick-thinking Debbie Jarvis, of Jemmett Road, Ashford, and another member of the public grabbed fire extinguishers and began tackling the blaze.

Over 80% of the van's engine was destroyed in the fire
Over 80% of the van's engine was destroyed in the fire

But she says staff at the petrol station, off junction 11 of the M20, failed to dial 999 or close the garage because the store was too busy.

Ms Jarvis said: "The woman got out screaming because she thought the van was going to blow up. The van was pushed away a bit from the pumps but it was still extremely close.

"Myself and another man put out the fire the best we could using the fire extinguishers available but it was still smoldering when the fire service got there because we couldn't get the bonnet open because it had melted shut.

"The staff didn't even know where the other extinguishers were and at the very least, someone should have been present who had received basic fire safety training.

"I really did feel bad for the staff because they had no idea what to do at all so I hope that an investigation is carried out.”

Folkestone Debbie Jarvis took control of the fire at The Shell petrol station
Folkestone Debbie Jarvis took control of the fire at The Shell petrol station

A Shell spokeswoman said: “As soon as the customer assistants became aware of the vehicle fire, they initiated Shell’s standard incident response procedures.

"The Fire Brigade arrived shortly after the alarm was raised and the incident was resolved safely with no injuries or damage to the forecourt.

"Shell is committed to ensuring the health and safety of all customers and forecourt staff.”

The van was dangerously close to pumps at the petrol station in Folkestone
The van was dangerously close to pumps at the petrol station in Folkestone

Kent Fire and Rescue service said the fire appeared to be out when crews arrived.

A spokesman said: “The fire was in the engine compartment of the van. It was treated as accidental and thought to be an electrical fault.

"One pump attended but it was a small fire that appeared to be out when we go there. It caused quite a lot of damage, around 80% of the engine.”

Ms Jarvis had stopped at the station at about 5pm to pump up her tyres on her way home from her job as an office manager at Basepoint, Folkestone.


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