A MAN had a lucky escape when he went to pay for parking in Dorchester and turned round to see his car going up in flames.

Onlookers told of their shock after the blaze, which destroyed three cars at the Wollaston Field car park off Acland Road opposite Waitrose.

The blaze flared up shortly before 11am yesterday and is believed to have been caused by an electrical fault in one of the cars, a Vauxhall Astra, which sparked the ignition.

Witnesses said the car owner stood in shock after the fire broke out. The car park was shut off by the emergency services and Acland Road was also closed due to the fire.

The car park and Acland Road were both re-opened before midday, although a small section of the car park surrounding the three cars remained sealed off for a couple of hours longer.

The cars involved in the blaze were a beige Nissan Qashqai, a silver Vauxhall Astra and a black Volkswagen Golf.

Speaking at the scene yesterday, a spokesman for Dorset Police said: “According to the fire service an electrical fault in one of the cars, possibly the middle car of the three, caused the car’s ignition to spark.

“Flames then appeared and a fire developed, which caused severe damage to the three cars.

“We are on scene for health and safety reasons due to concerns over the pungent fumes caused by the fire.

“We also need to inform the registered keepers of the cars of what has happened when they return to their cars.”

Police closed a small area of the car park off to the public and could also be seen informing concerned onlookers what had happened.

Dorchester resident Janice Hardy, 68, said a man got out of the Vauxhall Astra to pay for parking, but on returning to his car saw it go up in flames.

She added: “Someone phoned the fire service; it was amazing how quickly the bonnet went up and the tyres exploded.

“The man was very lucky and the scary thing is he never knew anything was wrong with his car. He was stood there in shock.

“It’s scary how quickly fire spreads; I drove into the car park about 10.45am and noticed the car was smoking slightly. By 11am it was up in flames.”

One woman, who had parked her car nearby, said she drove into the car park to see ‘oily black fumes’ coming from three cars.

She said: “I saw firefighters putting out the fire.

“I can’t imagine what it must be like to come back to your car in a car park and find it in the state that these cars are now in.”

Dorset Fire and Rescue Service said two fire engines from Dorchester were sent to the scene at 10.41am. “The incident involved a private vehicle which was well alight and had already spread to the other parked cars alongside,” a spokesman said.