Fire destroys King Alfred buses and coaches

Eight irreplaceable historic vehicles owned by the Friends of King Alfred Buses (FoKAB) preservation society and its members have been destroyed in a fire in the early morning of 8 December.

The vehicles were being stored in a unit in a farm in Penton Mewsey, near Andover, which caught fire. One of the nearby units had been occupied for many years by FoKAB and was used for the parking and storage of preserved and restored buses. While the fire appears to have started elsewhere in the complex, it spread quickly from one unit to the next and soon engulfed FoKAB’s area.

Among the destroyed vehicles was FoKAB’s groundbreaking 1950 Leyland Olympic JAA 708.  It was Hampshire’s first underfloor engine bus, rescued from Ireland and lovingly restored over many years before its relaunch in 2012. This was the only King Alfred bus that was in the building at the time. The Olympic is also the only bus to remain even partly recognisable in the wreckage whereas the rest have been reduced to little more than ash.

The other seven buses belonged to FoKAB’s members and fellow preservationists. They included four Hants & Dorset buses and a luxury coach. One of the vehicles a FoKAB member had been working on for the past 15 years. All are almost certainly beyond recovery.

“Whilst it is fortunate that no-one was hurt, we now must come to terms with the loss of so many valuable, irreplaceable buses and coaches” – Chairman of FoKAB, James Freeman

Chairman of FoKAB, James Freeman, said: “This is an appalling disaster and only underlines the importance of FoKAB’s never-ending quest to find a long-term safe home for its collection.

“The fire appears to have started elsewhere in another unit and was well alight by 1.30am this morning. By the time I arrived on site there was little left but the walls and roof structure.  The intensity of the fire was such that people living several miles away were woken by exploding fuel tanks and the like. Fire crews attended from all across Hampshire and from Wiltshire.

“Whilst it is fortunate that no-one was hurt, we now must come to terms with the loss of so many valuable, irreplaceable buses and coaches. We send our heartfelt sympathies to the owners who have lost their prized vehicles.”

The fires were extinguished by midday on 8 December.

The majority of the units were destroyed in the blaze.

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