‘Flames as high as trees’: neighbours react to mysterious car blaze in Saffron Walden

Two cars were destroyed following the blaze in a communal car park in Shrublands, Saffron Walden.

Two cars were destroyed following the blaze in a communal car park in Shrublands, Saffron Walden. - Credit: Archant

Neighbours have reacted today to being woken by a stolen car going up in flames outside their homes.

Firefighters were called to Shrublands, Saffron Walden, at about 12.45am this morning, when a Jaguar, stolen from the Dunmow area on Saturday, was found ablaze in a communal car park.

Police have so far been unable to say whether the incident is being treated as arson.

“The fire was mad – the flames were as high as the trees,” Shrublands resident Paul Lewis, 44, told the Reporter.

No-one was hurt in the blaze, which spread from the Jaguar to a neighbouring Mercedes, and was watched by stunned residents, some of whom had to move their vehicles from the car park during the incident.

Mr Lewis, who lives just metres from the car park with his wife Monica, 42, and seven-year-old son, Jonah, said he heard a “commotion” around the time of the fire.

“I’m a really light sleeper, the first thing I heard was a bang and it made me jump. I looked out the window and I heard a woman screaming “Help, help!”, then a car pulled away.

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“Then I heard a commotion going on, and Monica saw a few sparks coming across, just as I was saying she should phone the fire engine they arrived.”

It had been claimed Essex Police were called about a disturbance prior to the fire, with reports of a woman screaming, but the force later dismissed this, saying investigations had revealed the woman was asking for help after discovering the fire.

As a precaution firefighters checked the vehicles to make sure no-one was in them.

Monica Lewis told how the family gathered outside with neighbours on the street, who were also disturbed by the explosions – later said to be tyres.

The Lewis’ neighbour, Michael Faboyinde, also revealed how his wife heard a woman’s cries shortly before discovering the blaze.

“There were sparks and a smell of burnt tyres,” Mrs Lewis said.

“We woke Jonah up, we didn’t want him waking up and wondering what the smoke and sparks were about – he was a bit scared.”

Mr Faboyinde, who moved to the area with his wife and two children just a month ago, told the Reporter he thought he heard someone in distress.

“My wife heard a car alarm going off constantly, then later a woman shouting: ‘Help me!’ before we came outside,” said the 29-year-old.

“It was scary, and not what we expected from a neighbourhood like this. We still don’t know what happened.”

The two crews from Saffron Walden fire station were able to extinguish the blaze by around 1.40am, and left the scene about 40 minutes later.

Station officer Paul Curtis said told the Reporter precautions were also taken to stop the flames spreading to a nearby house by dampening down the property with water.

An Essex police spokesman said officers were investigating the fire and asked anyone with information to call 101. He would not confirm whether it was being treated as arson.

“Police were called at 12.50am this morning after reports of a vehicle alight in Shrublands, Saffron Walden,” the spokesman said.

“A red Jaguar which police later discovered had been stolen from Duton Hill in Dunmow on February 28 was left totally destroyed. The fire also spread to a blue Mercedes, causing that to be destroyed.”