THE commercial director of an industrial unit that caught fire said the damage isn’t as bad as first thought.
GEA Searle, on Collingwood Retail Park, in Fareham, caught fire late on Wednesday night but Richard Saunders said once the building was cleared, the damage wasn’t as extensive as expected.
It now faces a period of 12 months before the burnt section of the site can be rebuilt but Mr Saunders is thankful that the fire was stopped before it could spread.
‘When you see 50ft flames, you are always expecting the worst,’ said Mr Saunders.
‘We just stood there and watched the 100-odd firefighters fight the fire for hours.
‘But now, a few days later, we can see the damage and it turns out only about 18 per cent of the site was actually burned.
‘The fire crews managed to keep it away from our stock so we can now concentrate on replacing the space and finding room in other parts of the unit.’
Replacing the burnt section will cost around £4m to £6m but the insurance will cover the damage. Around £500,000 worth of equipment and other assets were destroyed but Mr Saunders is thankful it wasn’t more.
‘As well as some equipment, we also had products for customers that were ruined because it was the end of the month and they were waiting to be shipped.
‘But the total cost is around the £4m mark, maybe pushing £6m.’
GEA Searle manufactures heat exchangers and oxygen bottles are used. These exploded when exposed to the fire.
The dangers these caused meant the initial fire crew from Fareham had to wait for back-up.
In total, 15 crews from different stations turned up to tackle the flames.
‘We are so grateful to the firefighters who showed how brave they are,’ he added.
‘When Fareham turned up, I don’t think they realised just what they were facing and the explosions from the oxygen bottles made it worse.
‘But now it’s clear, we can get in and start moving things and recovering what we can.
‘The employees have been fantastic and will come in on weekends and show their support. They have been working extremely hard.’