Blaze boss vows to rise from the ashes

A FURNITURE shop boss whose store was virtually destroyed in a huge blaze has vowed to carry on serving his customers.

Shields Interiors, in Whitby Street South, Hartlepool, was gutted by fire on Thursday morning.

Devastated owner Gary Shields has now vowed to carry on trading and deliver on the firm's promises to nervous customers who are worried about their orders.

Gary, whose store was renovated only two years ago, said: "We hope to set up a temporary warehouse and office while we sort out the building.

"There is no way this is the end. We will definitely carry on and keep serving our loyal customers who should not worry about what has happened."

The top floor of the two-storey building is said to have been completely destroyed by the fire while the downstairs is severely smoke and water damaged.

More than 50 firefighters in 13 appliances from across the Cleveland area rushed to the shop just after 9am.

All staff managed to get to safety after Gary's attempts to put out the flames with an extinguisher proved futile.

Fire crews were on sight all day dowsing the building and it was only yesterday morning when the true extent of the damage could be seen.

Neighbouring properties were saved by firefighters who managed to contain the blaze to the one building.

Paula Bell, administrator for Shields Interiors, said: "I've been to see the damage and it is just incredible, there's hardly even a shell there as you can see blue sky through the roof.

"There are checks now taking place to see if there is structural damage. But either way it is going to be a massive job as all the electrics and gas pipes will need redoing. It's a nightmare.

"We want all of our customers to know that we are still here, using the same phone number and carrying out fittings and taking orders.

"Obviously things may take a little longer than normal and there will be a bit of disruption.

"We are all devastated, but we carry on."

The company has also notified its insurance company and the damage is currently being assessed. An inspector has already visited the site.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.