Bowser business owner recounts devastating fire

Bowser business owner recounts devastating fire

“It’s absolutely devastating to look back and see what used to be my shop.”

Thom Flegel was back at his Bowser business Sunday recounting the gut-wrenching ordeal he and his pregnant fiancée went through Dec. 6.

That’s when flames tore through Bowser Automotive, a Lighthouse community institution.

“I got a call from the alarm company saying there was motion in bay one,” Flegel told CHEK News. “I came in and there was smoke just about head height and the front of the tow truck was fully involved. I tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher but it was no use.”

The tow truck was parked inside the service centre.

Flegel can be seen on security camera footage trying to douse the flames in the billowing smoke.

“Adrenalin was high, my wife was 39 weeks pregnant at the time,” added Flegel.

He then raced to get his pregnant fiancée out of their RV that was parked behind the building.

“Very scary, one of the scariest moments of my life,” Grace McMahon said. “And of course, I was very pregnant so I’m not moving very fast so my first thought was just to get out of there.”

In a week full of rollercoaster emotions, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl Friday night in Courtenay.

“It turned from absolute despair into the most joyful day of my life when my beautiful baby was born,” said Flegel.

Bowser Automotive was opened in the 1940s and Flegel’s father took over the business in the early 1990s.

Thom worked around the shop since he was about 11 years old, he says, but was forced to take it over when his dad died suddenly a few days after Christmas 2020.

Things were looking up though, the business was successful, he had nine employees and they’d even won the Lighthouse Community Christmas Light Up competition just days before the fire.

Now it’s in ruins and the future is full of questions.

“There’s insurance for the business and for the tow trucks but it’s a fraction of what it’s going to cost to put everything back together,” he said.

A GoFundMe page has been started to help the family and those affected.

And baby Poppy’s middle name was inspired by the fire and what’s to come.

“So we named our baby Poppy Jane Phoenix Flegel and the Phoenix comes from the fact we hope to rise from the ashes,” said Flegel.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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