Rob and Jess Pearce
(GoFundMe/Ginger Halbert)

The vehicle at the centre of a fire that gutted Big O Tires West Shore belonged to a couple travelling from England, according to the owner of the store.

The fire started on Tuesday afternoon when an employee was working on the vehicle’s fuel tank. A spark ignited the tank and quickly grew to engulf the store.

The employee suffered burns and Big O Tires has been shut down while it awaits structural assessment, according to owner Don Swindell.

In an interview with Victoria Buzz, Swindell identified the owners of the vehicle as Rob and Jess Pearce, a couple vacationing from the UK who have been stranded in Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a GoFundMe page set up to help raise funds for the Pearces, they arrived in October 2019 and had been trying to make their way across the country.

They recently arrived in Victoria from Revelstoke and stopped to have their van looked at.

“They’ve been travelling about and living in their van,” Swindell said. “They’re a sweet couple, very gracious and polite.”

He said that the fire completely destroyed the van, along with the Pearces’ personal belongings.

“The tank was burning like a jet engine right up in the hoist where their van was. All their pictures from their trip were inside.”

Swindell said that news of the fire has led to offers of support for the stranded couple, including use of a vehicle.

“They’re a little bit overwhelmed. They feel a little bad because it was their van that we were working on.”

The fundraiser aims to help the couple recoup their financial losses by raising $5,000. As of the time of publication, it has collected nearly $3,300 in donations.