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A horrid, horrid thing.

Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men.

What a crappy, crappy thing to happen to Carvers.

It’s been hard enough over the last few years for independent builders merchants – and the rest of the industry – with everything that the economy has thrown at them.

Just when things seem, (if you look very, very hard), to be a teeny bit brighter for the sector, a fire breaks out in Wolverhampton and engulfs one of our longest-established builders merchants.

My heart goes out to Henry Carver, to David Carver, to Richard Boult and to everyone else there who had to watch as the flames engulfed everything yesterday morning. According to the local newspaper, the Express and Star, the plumes of smoke could be seen for miles around.

It’s such a tragedy for the company to see 116 years of trading going up in flames like that. Apparently, people did what you are always told to do in those fire drills and left the building immediately, sans things like car keys, and then of course had no way of getting home as they couldn’t then get back to retrieve them.

Watching Henry’s initial heart-breaking video interview with the paper, I have to confess to developing a decidedly lumpy throat and slightly teary eyes. But, as he said, at least we can be thankful that everyone got out alive and no-one was hurt. Bless him, he was the last one out of the building (take note Costa Concodia captain chappie) and reportedly had to climb over a fence as the electrics had failed and the gates couldn’t be opened.

They don’t yet know how it started, although I’m guessing that at that time of the morning it wasn’t arson, and I’m not sure how much comfort if any can be taken from that.

But stuff like this, dreadful though it is, can act as a wake-up call for others. How many merchants, on reading our coverage, took a quick look around at their yards, their timber stores and their stock of flammable items and thought ‘there but for the Grace of God, go I”.

It’s slightly comforting to see some of the comments that the Express and Star have been collecting from customers, staff and locals, showing the high regard that the company is held in amongst the people of Wolverhampton.

Incidentally, the Express and Star have been marvellous in the coverage of this, happening as it did on their doorstep. They’ve also been very generous, allowing me to pinch some of their pictures and copy. You can keep up with their coverage here.

As anyone whose had to deal with a fire knows, the initial shock is often compounded by the difficulties of dealing with the insurers and the planners when you rebuild. The council has pledge to do what it can to help Carvers get back on their feet, so let’s hope they stick to that all the way through.

Henry says the company is determined to regroup and rebuild and really all the rest of us can do is keep everything we can crossed and hope to high heaven they get through this.

Hang in there guys, we don’t want to lose you!

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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