A distraught Hartlepool business boss says he is ‘living a nightmare’ after a massive fire tore through his premises and left a £100,000 trail of destruction.
Shell-shocked David Baldwin says he is still in disbelief after the huge blaze - which is believed to have been sparked accidentally - gutted the first floor of Perkins and D Baldwin French Polishing and Cabinet Makers, on Leeholme Road in Billingham.
Mr Baldwin, who has ran the firm alongside business partner Keith Perkins for over 27 years, says tens of thousands of pounds of machinery and tools as well as products he was working on for customers were destroyed when the fierce fire engulfed the property.
The devastated duo are now mounting a daunting clean-up operation after losing a huge inventory of equipment they had built up over decades.
But they have vowed to rise from the flames after being ‘humbled’ by the huge outpouring of support they have received from the business community and members of the public alike.
Five fire crews from Stockton Fire Station and a command unit spent several hours tackling the blaze.
The fire destroyed the first floor of the building - in which tools and machinery were housed - and caused significant smoke damage to neighbouring units.
Mr Baldwin’s daughter Natasha has set up a fundraising page which has raised over £800 in just a matter of days.
Benevolent businesses have also stepped in to provide supplies as the rebuilding process begins in earnest.
Despite the terrible setback, the business is still trading from premises next door to their fire-ravaged base.
Mr Baldwin, from Sandwich Grove, Hartlepool said; “I feel like I am living a nightmare which I can’t wake up from.
“It is all still such a shock.
“The fire was started accidentally. It may have been a stray spark from a pot belly stove we use some mornings to make bacon sandwiches.
“It had been switched off and there wasn’t a whisper of smoke when we left but a spark may have spread.
“Everything has been destroyed, machinery and power tools and stock.
“It could be £100,000 of damage, not including the damage to the building.
“I was humbled when I heard about the fundraising page.
“We have received a great amount of support.”
David and Keith have won a strong reputation for their high standards of work. As well as taking on shop refurbishment projects, they carry out building and kitchen work, and bespoke joinery
The business duo scooped a conservation award for their efforts in refurbishing the Keith Walker Optician Boutique in Hartlepool.
They recently completed an impressive revamp of a toy shop on the Victorian-era street at Preston Park Museum.
To bolster the fundraising total, visit https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/Baldwin-1?utm_id=108&utm_term=Wg737vzAQ