Back in 2007, the long-running BBC car show Top Gear had reached its tenth season. It was going from strength-to-strength with celebrity guest stars, the infamous ‘cool wall’ and many a flashy car.
It was not only the presenters that made the show work, however, they had a number of props too. As well as the ‘cool wall’, there was the lap board and presenter’s chairs. But in 2007, the barn in which they were stored was destroyed in an arson attack.
The props were stored in the barn at Hill End Farm, Sandridge, Hertfordshire until the huge fire. Sandridge is a village and civil parish between St Albans and Wheathampsted.
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The BBC had rented half the barn to store the props and the other half was used to store grain when the fire broke out in August 2007. Over 30 firefighters showed up to extinguish the fire that was at risk of exploding oxygen canisters.
After an investigation, both the police and fire service deemed it had been started deliberately. The BBC made no statements regarding the incident but in true Top Gear fashion, it did become a joke on the show.
What became known as the Hill End barn fire was quite the topic during one of the show’s episodes. The presenters were sat around doing the ‘news’ section in which they talk about current affairs when they announced the incident.
During the episode, they jokingly claimed it was the rival Channel 5 car show, Fifth Gear, who had started the fire, destroying their chairs and most importantly ‘The Cool Wall.’
Following on from that, in the next episode Jeremy Clarkson announced that one of the hosts of Fifth Gear, Jason Plato, had suffered burns during an accident – and Jeremy was not the most sympathetic.
Clarkson said during the show: “Fifth Gear news, you know we revealed last week they burned our furniture, well it turned out that this week one of their presenters caught fire.”
He jokingly called Jason Plato ‘Jason Potato’ and then formed a pun based on that to call him ‘Baked Potato’ which received laughter from the audience but with a slight sense of guilt.
Clarkson then followed on from this saying: “He was quite badly injured actually, he had to go to hospital, he burnt his hand and his and what have you, we wish him a speedy recovery but I’d just like to say, thank you God.”
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