AN INVESTIGATION has been launched after fire engulfed a Southend garage twice in two days.

Police and the fire service have launched a joint investigation after firefighters were called to the Southend MOT and Service Centre in Fletchers Square, on the Temple Farm Industrial Estate, on Thursday evening and again in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Assistant Divisional Officer Martyn Hodder said: “Being called to the same address just 48 hours later to find the building well alight is unusual so both police and fire service investigation teams were called in at a very early stage.”

Neighbours reported a worker escaping uninjured after a vehicle inside the garage caught fire “suddenly and unexpectedly” at about 7pm on Thursday.

The fire, which gutted the MOT centre, filled a neighbouring garage with smoke and took 15 firefighters and hour to get under control, was recorded as accidental.

But investigators were called in again after the 6,450sq foot garage, which was filled with building materials, was completely engulfed in flames once more at about 3.20am on Saturday.

When crews from Southend, Leigh and Rochford arrived the building and roof – which collapsed - were completely alight, threatening other businesses in the terrace.

It took about 25 firefighters two hours to get the fire under control and crews were still dousing flames at midday on Saturday.

Mr Hodder, who is Southend station commander, said: "The aerial ladder platform was used to fight the fire from above, while crews on the ground in breathing apparatus did a fantastic job under punishing conditions to prevent the fire from spreading beyond the first unit.

"The units on either side of the fire were very heavily smoke logged and have both suffered some structural damage caused by the collapse of the roof of the MOT Centre where the fire started.”

Neighbouring businesses found their properties full of smoke when they opened on Saturday morning.

The owners of the business declined to comment.

NEIGHBOURING businesses fear the fire may have damaged their building and they may be targeted next.

A structural engineer will assess the garage today, but other businesses have been warned at least a couple of walls in the terraced properties on Fletcher Square may need taking down as a result of the damage.

Dan Ife, of building plastics firm Eurocell, three doors down from the garage, opened his shutters to clouds of smoke on Saturday morning.

The manager said: “It’s worrying because we hold one the largest stocks of building plastics in the UK.

“They don’t know how it started or happened. If it’s vandals, are they going to attack the rest of us?

“We have been told they are going to have to take a couple of walls down there. If they remove those walls are we going to have to close?”

Mr Ife opened his fire exit, used an extractor fan and sprayed air freshener, but his business still smelled of smoke hours later.

Matt Gilbert, of the MOT Centre Southend Ltd, another garage in the row, was surprised by the fire.

He said: “I got a call at about 5am and came down to check the workshop. There was a bit of smoke.“We have never had any trouble around here.”