A DEVASTATED businessman has told how he watched his company go up in flames.
Alan Smiles, owner and managing director of A&M Electronics, has vowed that despite the heartache of the Washington premises being gutted by fire, his electrical company will carry on.
Dozens of firefighters from six stations were on the scene for more than five hours after being called to the blaze on the Pattinson South Industrial Estate in Washington.
The fire, which started on the ground floor of the electrical engineering and storage facility in Stratford Road, spread to the upper floor, which was destroyed, and to an adjacent unit, which was badly damaged by smoke.
Crews were called out at about 6pm on Saturday and at the height of the blaze, 41 firefighters were on the scene.
Alan, who employs 25 people at his company, which carries out electrical engineering work on railways across the country, has spent 15 years building up the thriving business and won’t let the fire destroy all the hard work.
He said: “I was just sitting at home when one of the lads came round to say someone had spotted smoke from one of the factories in the area and they thought it was mine.
“When I got there I could see the firemen there.
“There was nothing I could do, but just stand and watch it burn. I am absolutely gutted.
“But we are doing too well and have too many people relying on us to give up. We will just have to operate from home until we can get a cabin or something set up as a temporary office and take it from there.”
Alan, who lives in Penshaw, said it appears the fire started in the staff kitchen area of the factory and he is just thankful there was no-one in the building when the fire broke out.
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said firefighters were carrying out investigations into the cause, but it appeared not to be deliberate.