Villagers formed human chain to try to save Hartlepool nursery's stock during major fire
The future of a family-run garden centre is uncertain after a devastating fire.
Grove House Plants in Greatham, on the outskirts of Hartlepool, suffered significant damage in the large blaze on Monday night.
Up to 20 neighbours rallied round during the fire, forming a chain of people in an effort to save as much stock as possible.
But fourth-generation owner Reg Hutchinson said he is unsure if he will be able to continue.
A large greenhouse where all of Reg’s tools were kept to prepare Christmas wreaths and other orders was destroyed.
Several other greenhouses and a shed also suffered fire damage.
Reg, 59, who runs the business with wife Kim, said: “I left and got home at eight o’clock.
“I got a phone call just before 10 from the neighbour saying ‘there seems to be a fire coming from your place’.
“By the time I got here he had rung 999 and the fire brigade were trying to get over the fence.
“The neighbours all rallied and did a chain to get plants out the way as best they could.
“I would like to thank them for that.”
The orange glow of the flames could be seen from across the village.
Resident Peter Blumer said: “It was really big, really high.
“All the neighbours got involved and everyone wanted to see if they could do anything.”
Five fire engines from Hartlepool, Thornaby, Billingham and Stockton fought the fire and were at the scene for around two hours. The flames also spread to the back of a neighbour’s house.
The nursery was open for business yesterday but Reg is unsure at this stage if he will be able to continue.
He said: “We have lost over 1,000 square feet of greenhouse. I’m sick to the pit of my stomach right now.
“This is the busiest period of the year. I have a lot of orders that I can’t fulfil.
“At least no one got hurt, that’s the main thing. Things can be rebuilt if they can be rebuilt. I haven’t got a tool.”
The cause of the fire is not yet known.
Villagers have started an online fundraising page at the website GoFundMe in aid of the nursery.
It describes the nursery as ‘the heart and soul of Greatham Village’ adding: “Let’s try and raise a little cash to help them through Christmas which is probably their busiest time of year.”