THREE warehouses containing factory equipment and goods worth millions of rands were destroyed in a fire in George’s industrial area early yesterday.
The warehouses, at the George Business Park in Albert Road, contained timber, furniture, tyres, and shoemaking equipment and material.
Divan van Wyk, of Niqua Security which is based at the premises, said a guard noticed smoke coming from Eden Timber shortly after 1am.
Corene Marx, spokeswoman for small business financing and industrial property company Business Partners, said the fire spread quickly.
"An explosion occurred when the fire spread to the adjacent tyre manufacturer and shoe factory. We have 15 tenants – three of them were destroyed and five suffered water damage. The cause of the fire is unknown,” she said.
Chris Greyling, whose company Innovative Footwear prepares shoes to be completed by Watson’s Shoes in Groot Brak River, said he suffered severe losses.
"We lost at least 100 pieces of specialised equipment. Also, 36 full-time and at least 70 part-time workers are suddenly out of a job. We are going to try our best to get back into business as soon as possible, but some of the equipment will have to be ordered from overseas.”
Palm Tyres lost about 22000 tyres worth between R10-million and R12- million.
Andy Sittig, owner of furniture factory Eden Timber, said his business was "totally gutted”.
Lindsay Bennett, of fabric shoe factory Bennett & Co, said her factory suffered a lot of water damage.
"I moved in six months ago and this is a serious setback, but I will be back in business by Monday,” she said.
Wayne Young, of Afrox Gas, which is next to Business Park, said they worked quickly to avert danger.
"The fire was raging next door when I got here. While our guard hosed down gas cylinders to cool them down, I moved palettes containing cylinders away from the wall with a forklift,” he said.
"We feared that burning debris might fall from the roof of the building next door into our premises, which could have caused the cylinders to overheat and explode.”
Southern Cape police spokeswoman Captain Bernadine Steyn said although arson was not suspected, a forensic investigation would be launched.