The owner of a car wash business which was burned to the ground in a suspected arson attack had vowed to battle back.
Ben Pitchers and his business partern James Eccleshare lost nearly £10,000 of equipment in the blaze at Prowash Valeting Centre at Fox Court on Thornton’s Red Marsh Industrial Estate.
But just 24 hours after their devastating discovery the schoolfriends are back in business and determined to forge ahead with ambitious expansion plans.
“I went in on Monday morning and found the place burned out,” said Ben
“It was devastating, there was nothing left.
“We had everything in the building, all our equipment, sofas, desks, products.
“There’s probably £10,000 worth of stuff we’ve lost.
“We had top of the line Karcher equipment and it’s all gone.
“But we won’t give up, we’ll keep on going.”
And thanks to a heartwarming response from the company’s landlords and neighbours, Ben and James were back in business just 24 hours after the blaze – finding a temporary home in a neighbouring unit.
“The response was fantastic,” said Ben. “We were found somewhere to go and there were other companies on the estate who were able to help out with equipment and other things.
“They were all great and we thank them so much.
“We were there until 9pm on Monday and were open first thing Tuesday morning.”
Ben and James have built up their car wash business from scratch, not paying themselves a wage over the last 18 months.
Now, with a clause in their insurance policy ruling out any payment for the fire losses, they face a struggle to rebuild at Thornton and establish their new site at Fleetwood Freeport.
“We’ll manage somehow,” said 23-year-old Ben – a former Fleetwood High School pupil.
“Work has already started at Freeport.
“We only announced it at the weekend and this happens at Thornton on Sunday night.
“A lot of the money for Fleetwood is already paid up front but we’ll have to split it as best we can.
“We will find a way, I don’t know how we’ll do it but we’ll find a way.”
Ben said CCTV cameras had captured someone breaking into the business, piling items in the middle of the room and setting them alight.
Fire crews from Bispham and Fleetwood were called to the premises at just before 5am on Monday.
Firefighters used a water jet to extinguish the fire, which they believe was started deliberately.
Lancashire Police has been passed the CCTV from the fire and are investigating.
Det Con Danny Cassidy from Blackpool CID said: “This fire has caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and affected the owner’s livelihood as a building was destroyed and some high-value car cleaning equipment was also stolen.
“We believe that it was caused deliberately and so are asking anyone who may have seen anyone acting suspiciously in the area in the early hours of yesterday morning to get in contact with us.”
If anyone has any information, they can contact police on 101 quoting incident reference 126 of April 18.
The main priority for Ben is now to get the business back up and running and a new permanent home.
He said: “We’re looming for somewhere for a new base.
“If anyone has an available site in Thornton, preferrably on a main road, or knows about one we’d like to know.”
The Freeport car wash and valet centre is due to open early next month.