Experts still probing cause of huge blaze

Gary Shields

Gary Shields

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INVESTIGATIONS are continuing into what caused a huge blaze at a furniture showroom.

Officers from Cleveland Fire Brigade have been inspecting the shell of Shields Interiors after it was gutted by fire on Thursday, January 20.

More than 50 firefighters from across the Teesside area tackled the blaze at the family firm in Whitby Street South, Hartlepool, which sent plumes of black smoke across the town.

The top floor of the two-storey building was completely destroyed by the fire, with the downstairs severely smoke and water damaged.

Owner Gary Shields has since set up a temporary warehouse and office while the damage is evaluated and repaired.

Mr Shields, whose store had been renovated just two years ago, said: “It’s been non-stop since the fire.

“We’ve been sorting out the insurance, setting up a temporary office and getting everything sorted. We’re still busy as well and taking orders.

“We still haven’t got to the bottom of what started it. It’s still a bit of a mystery. But I’m sure the fire brigade will keep us informed.”

A spokesman for Cleveland Fire Brigade said: “The investigation is ongoing as this was a substantial fire so it is taking time to get to the bottom of what happened.

“We hope to have a better idea next week.”

Neighbouring properties were also in danger of catching fire but were saved by firefighters who managed to contain the blaze to the one building.

No-one was hurt in the fire as workers had fled the store after smelling smoke and seeing flames in a back room.

Mr Shields had tried to put the fire out with an extinguisher, but it proved too powerful.