Thousands of pounds raised for car repair shop owner in Dartford after fire destroyed Birchwood Road business

A mechanic has described the ‘heartbreaking’ moment he had to tell customers their cars had been destroyed in a fire that ripped through his workshop.

Father-of-two Danny Russell was helpless as a massive fire ripped through his car repair shop, DR Car Repairs in Birchwood Road, Dartford.

The massive blaze saw eight fire engines called to the scene last Monday.

At the height of the incident, smoke was visible in nearby Joydens Wood and the main road was closed for hours as crews battled the flames.

Garage boss Danny, who lives in Gravesend with his family, was working on site when a member of his team informed him of the fire.

“I got out and looked around and embers were falling on me,” he explained.

“I have never seen the fire spread so fast and so fast, it was a nightmare.”

Danny attempted to put out some of the flames with his foot. Photo: Danny Russell

Initially, the fire appeared quite far away, but the wind quickly blew it in the direction of his business, Danny explained.

“I was trying to put out part of the fire with my foot,” he added. “I used all my fire extinguishers but they really didn’t do anything.”

The garage boss threw buckets of water in an attempt to put out the flames, but they had already spread to nearby caravans containing gas cylinders.

It was when he started to hear explosions that Danny began to fear for his safety and the safety of others and knew he had to leave.

“I thought I was going to lose my life if I stayed here trying to prevent the spread,” he added.

Everything was destroyed in the fire, including thousands of pounds of tools, equipment and vehicles belonging to customers.

“I thought I was going to lose my life if I stayed here trying to stop it from spreading”

The company, which Danny had been steadily building from scratch for several years, also had a contract with a private ambulance company, but luckily none of their vehicles were on site.

“Having to make that phone call to tell my clients that their cars had been damaged or completely destroyed by fire was heartbreaking, but they were all very understanding,” Danny added.

“You put your heart and soul into building your own business and you do whatever you can to save it.

“It’s as if you had your own child, you raised it and transformed it into what it is.”

It came at the worst possible time for the father-of-two who welcomed son Henry with his girlfriend just four months ago. They also have a three-year-old daughter Olivia.

Danny's car repair shop was completely destroyed in the fire in Birchwood Road, Dartford.  Photo: Danny Russell
Danny’s car repair shop was completely destroyed in the fire in Birchwood Road, Dartford. Photo: Danny Russell

“Insurance is underway as we speak, but it’s a long process,” he added.

“We were looking forward to taking the next step and moving. I just hope it doesn’t take too long to get back on my feet and move.”

Meanwhile, friend Michaela Palmer has put together a GoFundMe page to help Danny and his family while they wait for news of the investigation.

Almost £1,300 has been raised for the businessman and his family at the time of writing.

Danny is grateful and that the support from friends, family, other small businesses and the local community has brought “tears to his eyes”.

He added: “A lot of people offered vans and tools and a few friends said that when we find a new place they will help me build another office for free.

Huge plumes of black smoke could be seen in the Joyden's Wood area.  Photo: Barry Chantler/Dakar Cars
Huge plumes of black smoke could be seen in the Joyden’s Wood area. Photo: Barry Chantler/Dakar Cars

“The support we’ve had has been incredible. It’s kept my spirits up and my spirits up.”

Videos shared online showed several vehicles including a burning trailer at the site behind the Ashlea Nursery florist and several single-family homes.

Cars belonging to vintage collectors on site were also reportedly destroyed.

Speaking last week, car enthusiast Barry Osborne told KentOnline: “We’re pretty good at doing things with our cars.

“The same thing happened about two and a half years ago.”

A Kent Fire & Rescue Service spokesperson said: ‘The cause of this has not been established.

Alejandro L. Myatt