A SEVERE blaze which destroyed 50 per cent of a Cradley Heath business and caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage is believed to have been started deliberately.

The wood-working operation at Oldfields Reclamations Ltd went up in smoke when a storage building was torched after vandals are suspected of breaking into the yard at about 11.30pm on Monday. (April 5) Joint owners Brian Smith and Keith Shaw said the fire-revaged building would have to be demolished and two wood working machines that were destroyed alone came to £50,000.

Mr Smith said the single storey building and its contents - including antique fireplaces - were not insured and the fire signalled the death-knell for the wood-working side of their enterprise.

He said they would instead concentrate on the sale of reclaimed bricks and stone at their premises on the Oldfields Trading Estate, Oldfields, and their shop, Bridale Architectural Antiques, in nearby Graingers Lane.

“The lock was broken on the gate, so we think vandals got in and started the fire. A lot of factories round here are getting broken into, but what can you do?” said Mr Smith, who also had his £300 camera and a few pounds in cash stolen when his van was broken into sometime during the same night in Graingers Lane.

“We feel depressed and gutted, but we’ll carry on with what we’ve got left.” added Mr Smith.

Watch commander Paul Clark, of Dudley Fire Station, said six pumps had fought the blaze and firefighters had to take precautions because there was asbestos in the roof.

Network Rail was also alerted because a railway line runs close to rear of the premises, but trains did not have to be stopped or diverted.

He said the blaze was thought to be arson, but the cause could not be confirmed until police investigations had been completed.

Mr Smith said a passer-by walking his dog had raised the alarm after spotting the flames.