A BUSINESS boss has warned that a blaze at a South Tyneside garage had put lives at risk.
Sixteen firefighters spent four hours tackling the blaze at Aldaz Autobodiez repair shop, in Maxwell Street, South Shields, on Sunday night.
It started after a pile of spare parts, including tyres and cables, in the outside yard were set alight.
The fire spread to a nearby tool unit and led to £3,000 worth of goods being destroyed.
But building owner Tom Alder said the suspect blaze could have been far worse if four containers of propane gas had not been empty.
Police were called to the scene, and the cause of the fire is still being investigated.
Mr Alder, 70, who owns the building from which his son runs the body shop firm, said: “We don’t know who started it. It could have been kids.
“There were four propane gas containers, which were thankfully empty. I think it was a malicious fire.
“If the containers had been even half full, the consequences could have been a lot more dangerous. Lives could have been in danger.
“The fire was started at night so nobody was in the building. But if it had happened during the day, the whole street could have been closed off.
“It could have gone off with a bang.”
He added: “We just don’t know if they set the fire with the intention of setting off the propane containers or if they didn’t know they were there.
Mr Alder says the firm will “write off” the £3,000 worth of damage as the new year got off to a nightmare start.
Mr Alder added: “The main thing is that nobody was hurt. You just have to shake your head and get on with it.”
“There was tyres with alloy wheels, cables, saws and plastic bins and trollies that were set on fire. The value of it all was about £3,000.
“We don’t want to get the insurance involved as your premiums will go up. We will just write it off, but we won’t be storing tyres in the yard anymore.
“Hopefully, someone will know who has done this.”
Sixteen firefighters from South Shields and Hebburn were called to tackle the fire
Crews had to take extra precautions after it was discovered that the cylinders were being stored in the outdoor workshop area.
Damage was also caused to the roof of a nearby building.
Mr Alder said: “The firefighters did an excellent job. I got a phone call at about 10pm. They were here for hours.
“The fire could have been started a couple of hours before they were told about it. The fire thankfully didn’t spread to inside the building.
“The heat was so great that the fire went underneath the metal tool unit and caused damage to items in there.