Birmingham & Black Country

'Wood-burning stove caused' Carvers builders merchants fire

A fire which destroyed a 116-year-old builders merchants may have been caused by a wood-burning stove, say crews.

Up to 75 firefighters tackled the blaze which swept through Carvers, in Littles Lane, Wolverhampton, on Wednesday.

Tony Ward, West Midlands Fire Service group manager, said it was "caused possibly by a wood-burning stove" but investigations were continuing.

He said flammable materials such as paints and aerosol cans meant the fire "got hold within the first seconds".

The fire began at about 11:40 GMT and was brought under control by 15:30 GMT. No-one was hurt.

'Out for months'

Neighbouring homes were evacuated as a precaution and the smoke caused disruption to train services.

Fire crews have been at the scene overnight.

Image caption The fire spread quickly through the buildings

Mr Ward said they were dealing with "small pockets of fire" and expected to be there for some time.

He said investigations were in the early stages and would continue all day.

"It's a very large builders merchants and within that structure there it contains lots of aerosols, paints, plastic, plumbing materials, wood.

"Loads and loads of flammable, combustible material and as soon as the fire got hold it would have been a very rapid spread of fire throughout that structure."

Owner Henry Carver said he was relieved everyone got out safely, adding they were "99% sure nobody's been injured".

Mr Carver said large parts of the business, which employs 200 people, would be out of action for several months but he aimed to rebuild it.

Mr Carver was shocked by the speed of the fire.

'Part of family'

He said some managers initially tried to extinguish the blaze, but the scale of it made their efforts "hopeless".

"It's 116 years going up in 10 to 15 minutes in front of you and we want to get enough insurance payments to begin," he said.

"It's what we've done for five generations."

He said the firm's future and jobs were largely dependent on meetings with its insurer's loss adjusters.

"We're a well-financed company without any bank borrowings but you can't finance something like that unless the insurance finances it and there's every indication that they are going to be positive but it's really up to those negotiations," he said.

But he said the company was determined to "carry on".

"It's a trick we know and we have been reasonably successful at it," he said.

"You look at all the people and the sadness on their faces and the jobs and everything - you want to do it for them."

John Parker, who has worked at Carvers for about 20 years, said he felt "gutted" about the fire.

"It's our livelihood. It's like part of the family gone," he said.

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