A businessman was forced to watch part of his livelihood go up in smoke in a late-night suspected arson attack on his motorbike garage.
Paul Patzer has described how he was woken at just after 10pm on Wednesday night by a call saying his garage - Barkers, in North Road, Boldon Colliery - was on fire.
The 67-year-old Sunderland businessman had been staying at his partner’s house in Hylton Castle, Sunderland, and said as he made his way to the building he could see the smoke rising up.
Luckily, fire crews called to the blaze were able to move a number of bikes, belonging to both customers and Mr Patzer, out of the way of the flames.
The owner, who started his career in the motorbike repair business as a mechanic at the garage in 1969, before taking over the business in 1988, said: “I got a call just after 10pm saying the garage was on fire.
“When I came over the hill from Hylton Castle to Boldon, you could see all the black smoke.
I’m a half glass full type of person, it was what it was, it could have been a lot worse. The fire brigade were brilliant.Paul Patzer
“It just looked absolutely terrible. I wasn’t sure if it was the garage itself or the yard outside at that time.
“The fire brigade were already here but they weren’t letting anyone near. I told them I was the owner and they said they would come and see me.”
Firefighters from South Shields, Washington and Hebburn were on site, from around 9.30pm until midnight tackling the flames which completely destroyed a single storey metal shed, along with around 200 tyres and scrap scooters.
There was also heat damaged caused to the main building including fire damage to the cladding and roof.
Cladding and a fire door at the garage next door - M & S Prestige Sales - a Mercedes-Benz sales and bodywork specialists - was also severely damaged by the fire.
Mr Patzer, from Ryhope, Sunderland, stayed overnight in the building.
He added: “It wasn’t until the morning when I saw the full extent of the fire damage. It was a bit of a shock.
“I’ve had lots of phonecalls, lots of people calling asking if things are okay, and offering their help to tidy up.
“It does give you a heartfelt feeling at the end of the day. There were people even helping to watch the bikes for me that had been taken out by the fire brigade.
“I’m a glass half full type of person, it was what it was, it could have been a lot worse. The fire brigade were brilliant.”
Paul is hoping to have the garage back up and running as normal from Monday.
A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: “At 10.23pm on Wednesday police received a report of a fire at a business premises on North Road, Boldon.
“Emergency services attended and the fire, which started outside but spread to nearby premises, was extinguished. Nobody was injured.
“An investigation has been launched to determine the circumstances surrounding the fire. At this stage, police are treating the fire as suspected arson.”
Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting reference 1085 020119 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.