CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The Trieb family had just sat down for supper at Swiss Chalet in Charlottetown Thursday evening when they learned their rental van was on fire in the parking lot.
“I feel like I could cry,” said Lisbeth Trieb as she looked at her scorched rental van. “I don’t know what to do.”
Lisbeth and her husband, Werner, along with their sons, Byron and Sean, are visiting from Winterthur, Switzerland. They rented a vehicle at the Halifax airport Thursday morning and drove to P.E.I. Thursday afternoon.
They settled in at a bed and breakfast and decided to go have a meal at Swiss Chalet.
They had just arrived and received their drinks when they heard someone shout, “Who owns the white car with the Ontario number?”
Lisbeth says they raced outside and saw shooting flames coming from their van.
She adds that a restaurant employee went out to try to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher, but it didn’t work, so the fire department was called.
“We are foreigners here on vacation. We don’t know the steps we have to do.”
Lisbeth said the van drove fine from Halifax to Charlottetown and then to Swiss Chalet.
“There was no indicator,” said Lisbeth. “It was a surprise.”
Lisbeth said she is grateful that their family wasn’t in the van when it caught fire. However, she is worried about what is next for them.
“We are foreigners here on vacation,” said Lisbeth. “We don’t know the steps we have to do.”
The 911 call was received shortly after 6 p.m.
The Charlottetown Fire Department and Charlottetown Police Services were the first responders on the scene.
Kent Mitchell, a fire inspector in Charlottetown, said when they arrived, smoke and flames were coming from the engine bonnet.
Firefighters took the engine bonnet off and began spraying it down with a hose.
Mitchell said firefighters also disconnected the power supply to ensure there was no residual power that would cause the van to malfunction.
At this point, a large crowd had gathered in the parking lot.
Mitchell says they receive about a dozen calls a year about vehicles on fire.
“It’s quite common,” said Mitchell, adding most often it is brakes seizing up or mechanical issues but notes there are many reasons for a fire to occur in a vehicle.
The investigation into the fire is ongoing.