He thought it was the work of a litterbug when he saw joss paper stuck all over the windscreen of his car at the outdoor carpark of IMM mall at Jurong East.
But on closer look, Mr Goh Koon Wee, 32, was stunned to find that the front of his car had also been burnt.
Luckily, the fire had been extinguished by the time Mr Goh returned to his car about an hour after running an errand at the mall on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Goh, who is self-employed, had parked at a lot right next to an incense burning bin, not realising that it was a cordoned-off area. The barricades had been moved nearer to the incense burning bin, said an IMM spokesman.
Mr Goh, who did not see the barricades, said: "I noticed the bin but there was no burning activity at that time.
"Besides, it was also drizzling so I thought no one would burn anything."
He added that he was in a daze and couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the damage to his five-year-old Toyota Vios.
Mr Albert Chua, an operations executive at IMM, helped to extinguish the fire.
He thinks the fire started because the people who were burning the incense paper did not check if the fire had died before leaving.
He said: "Luckily, the fire was extinguished very quickly. The fire must have raged for about 5 minutes, but the front tyre of his car was already destroyed."
He added: "We have been doing this (burning incense) at the carpark for more than 20 years with no issue."
IMM marketing communications manager Novia Yeo said: "Our mall team was informed of the fire and the car owner called the police, who informed the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
"However, our staff managed to put out the fire before the SCDF arrived. No one was hurt in the incident.
"We are sorry to hear about the incident and understand that the affected car owner is in discussions with our tenant."
Ms Yeo added that IMM designates an area in their outdoor carpark for tenants to conduct their prayers during the Hungry Ghost Festival every year.
The designated area is cordoned off at a safe distance from shoppers and vehicles.
The SCDF said it received a call at 2.55pm and sent a fire engine to the location. The fire had already been put out when its officers arrived. It is investigating the cause.
In a Facebook post on July 27, the SCDF advised people to use incense paper burners to contain the burning and to check for smouldering incense and make sure that the fires are completely put out before leaving during this Hungry Ghost Festival season.
When The New Paper visited the carpark yesterday, a barricade spanning three lots was placed around the incense bin. Some incense paper could still be found scattered around the cordoned area.
Mr Goh has sent his car to a workshop for repairs. He will get it back in about three weeks.
He does not know how much the repairs will cost and will file an insurance claim.
He said: "The people who did this should take responsibility. Normally there will be a barricade around the bin when incense burning takes place and there are rules, such as doing it at a certain time.
"I think they should have taken greater care when they burned the incense paper.
"Or they could have just asked me to move my car."
Luckily, the fire was extinguished very quickly. The fire must have raged for about 5 minutes but the front tyre of his car was already destroyed.
This article was first published on August 01, 2014.
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