Part 2 - Lessons Learned

As Promised
In November 2012, we published Part 1 of this story, an article about a very unexpected loss. We asked Duncan if we could do a follow up article to help our members learn from his experience and the details of the fire. He had no trouble explaining what happened.

Respecting the physical and emotional disruption following the devastating fire at their home on November 8th, we only recently contacted Duncan and Sheila Wood to see how they were doing. "We're doing fine, thank you." reported Duncan.

Just Routine Maintenance
"We had just returned from a Texas competition event where Gloria scored 398 out of a possible 400 points. I was having battery problems while in Galveston, so when we got back home I installed a new battery and connected it to trickle charger." 

"We were watching TV later that evening, when we heard crackling noises coming from the garage. When we opened a door to the garage we were met with a wall of flames. The fire had already spread to the attic and was moving from one end of the house to the other. Unfortunately, all I had was a garden hose. It was no competition for the flames."

By the time the 60 firefighters and 18 pieces of equipment extinguished the fire, almost all of the home including the entire garage was a total loss. The fire was hot enough to cause damage to a neighbor's home. 

So, What Happened?
"Apparently a diode in the charger unit failed, causing full household current to flow into the new battery. It quickly overheated causing the battery to erupt into flames", he said.

"The temperature where the Gloria was located was rated at between 1600 and 1800 degrees, hot enough to vaporize every aluminum part of the car. Nothing but steel parts remained, but so badly warped by the heat, they were lost as well." 

To make the loss just a little more painful, Duncan's collection of tools and machinery used to maintain or restore his Classics were lost as well. 

"At least we're safe and unharmed. The cars can be replaced, we can't be", Duncan observed.

The Red River Triumph Club Helps Out Shelia and Duncan could not adequately express the appreciation they have for the help and generosity of their fellow Red River Triumph Club members. 

"Club members showed up early the following morning to help us move undamaged possessions from our home", said Shelia. "They brought food, beverages and many helping hands. They made a bad situation bearable."  

"We had to move to a temporarily apartment a few miles from our home. We had not been able to salvage very much from the fire, even with all the help. Club members lent us all kinds of furniture to make our temporary living conditions more comfortable. Thanks to their help and generosity, we were able to start putting the pieces of our lives back together the very next day." 

This kind of support reflects the enormous sense of community the Red River Triumph have among themselves and is another great example of what a Car Club represents.

Lessons Learned

When asked what other lessons Duncan had learned from this experience. This is what he told us.

1-EVERY garage should have a smoke alarm and the alarm should be linked to the home's alarm. 
There is no guarantee you will hear the garage alarm if you are located at the other end of the house.

2-ANY charger unit should be plugged into a high quality power strip unit with a built-in circuit breaker
A short in the charger would have tripped the breaker. None of the household current would have overloaded the battery. 

3-Classic car owners should consider having a sprinkler system installed in the garage. 
Duncan said that for new construction, the $1-$1.50 per square foot cost to have sprinklers installed was worth having any risk of fire damage greatly reduced. 

And although Duncan had created his personal Garagistry, he had not yet preserved his restoration documents, photos or awards. We think taking the time to do that now is good advice to consider too. 

What's Next? 
Before finishing our conversation, we asked Duncan his plans for the future. He told us that construction crews were already making great headway rebuilding their home. Perhaps a benefit of living in Texas and State Law, but he was very pleased with his insurance company's support and the speed with which they processed their claims. 

And with a true classic car owner's attitude, he is headed to England in January with the purpose of finding and purchasing one of the now remaining thirteen 1935 Gloria's. We wish Duncan and Sheila the best of luck!

The Garagistry Team