A small car fire in a Cork car park quickly became a blaze that engulfed 60 cars and left around 50 completely burnt out.
The blaze broke out at around 6.45pm on Saturday evening on the first floor of the multi-storey car park in Douglas Village Shopping Centre.
Eyewitnesses say the car that started the fire was located just opposite the escalator entrance to the main shopping centre, just past the entrance ramp to the first-floor parking level.
“It would have been the first thing people saw coming off the escalator to get back to the car park,” one eyewitness told The Echo.
Just as the fire broke out, John Lynch, of Hazel Hill in Maryborough Ridge, arrived at the shopping centre to buy his wife some flowers for her birthday on the following day.
“I went in to the car park and parked the car,” he told The Echo.
“I was probably around five or six from the entrance, I was blessed.
“I got out, locked the car and a woman warned me to be careful as she thought she saw a car on fire nearby,” he added.
“I saw that it was, in fact, on fire and rang the emergency services.
“I turned around and there was cars still coming up the ramp so I ran over and, with the help of a few other people, we started guiding them back down the ramp and out of the car park.”
Another eyewitness told The Echo that as cars headed for the exit, a bottleneck occurred.
“People on the first floor were trying to get out as well as those who were coming up the ramp, and these cars were met at the exit with others exiting from the floors above,” he explained.
“There was a bit of a panic as people saw the fire growing and they were trying to get out.”
Mr Lynch explained that eventually there were no cars left attempting to enter the first-floor car park.
“So I ran down the ramp, where I spotted another car coming up,” he said.
“I got him to reverse back down and then I stood at the entrance warning people not to come in.
Mr Lynch said he then realised that cars trying to exit the car park had run into difficulty because of the volume of traffic outside and the traffic lights in place near the exit.
“I ran into the road, put my two hands up and got the traffic to stop on either side,” he explained.
“I think around 10 or 12 cars made it out at that time.
“So then I ran back up the ramp — I wouldn’t recommend running into a burning building — but I knew where the car on fire was and I knew I could get mine out,” he added.
“Some people tried to stop me, but I pointed out my car was just there behind them so I got in and got it out.
“I have to say, I was never in any real danger, as it was early days.
“There was plenty of smoke, but the fire hadn’t spread at that stage.”
“The fire services did arrive very, very quickly and performed very well.”
The other eyewitness who spoke to The Echo lives in the Douglas area.
“I made it home and from there I could hear loud bangs, but I assumed it must be the tyres exploding in the heat,” he added.
There is no timeline as yet for the removal of cars that remain in the car park, management of the shopping centre confirmed last night.
An information helpline has been made available for people who were forced to abandon their cars in the multi-storey car park of Douglas Village Shopping Centre after it caught fire.
Anyone who left their car in the building has been urged to contact 087 9509800 for information.