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Company boss: Damage is ‘catastrophic’

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HWP boss Jonathan Brewin has spoken of the “extremely sad and difficult moment” he had to helplessly stand by and watch the business burn to the ground. Mr Brewin said: “My main concern was for the safety of staff, my focus was getting people out of the building. We worked together to get the staff moving quickly.

The president and CEO of the HWP Group had little choice but to stand on the sidewalk with his staff and watch the business “go up in flames in seconds”.

The fire is expected to have caused millions of dollars of damage with Mr Brewin calling the damage “catastrophic”.

HWP bosses are now working with the fire service to establish the cause of the blaze with Mr Brewin saying, “everything is still under evaluation”.

However Mr Brewin said they were “planning hard” and “looking forward” by setting up a helpline to try to assist customers affected by the fire.

He said: “It was an extremely sad and difficult moment for me. I was outside watching the fire spreading, it wasn’t easy.

“You feel helpless as there’s nothing you can do.

“I’m just glad that all the staff are safe, that’s the main thing”.

Mr Brewin was one of 115 staff evacuated from the company on St John’s Road, Pembroke, when the fire alarm sounded just before 2pm. He was in his office in the car showroom building at the time.

He explained there were 50 people in the body and paint centre, where the fire started, and about 65 in the showroom, administrative offices and gas station.

“Something like this really puts you to the test, but the evacuation process went very smoothly. Our evacuation procedure was swift and effective and everyone got out extremely quickly”.

HWP employees congregated outside for about ten minutes, until police and fire officials moved them away from the building.

Mr Brewin remained on the scene to give firefighters crucial information about the building layout as they fought to bring the blaze under control.

As the fire was being dampened down at about 5.30pm, Mr Brewin returned to the scene to see what was left of the building. When asked about the extent of the damage, he said: “It’s catastrophic, it’s not good at all”.

Mr Brewin said he “wouldn’t want to put an exact figure” on the cost of the damage to the building or the cars. He said there would likely be a high number of vehicles destroyed, saying there were new cars in the showroom, as well as customers’ cars in for repairs and staff vehicles in the car park.

But Mr Brewin did say: “Most of the vehicles on the south side of St John’s Road have been destroyed and we will be contacting customers as soon as possible”.

Mr Brewin said it was “far too early to say” whether the company would rebuild on the same site, but he said the company was working with its landlords.

HWP will remain closed today with St John’s Road also expected to remain cordoned off for much of the day. However, Mr Brewin said he hoped the gas station would reopen today “subject to fire and police inspection”.

Mr Brewin said the company was “already looking forward” and a task force had been set up to put contingency plans in place.

This includes setting up a helpline to answer customers’ questions and urging all staff to contact their managers before returning to work.

Mr Brewin added that the firm’s phone and e-mail system and computer network had been destroyed, so people would have to “work with them”.

He said: “After the safety of our staff and customers our immediate priority is to ensure that customers who have vehicles being worked on are informed as to the status of their vehicles.

“We also have to assess the situation and find out how many staff we need in the existing areas and we will take it from there”.

Don Mackenzie, chairman of the HWP Group, added: “We are working towards to resuming normal business as soon as possible, please bear with us as we do so.

“Looking after our team and resolving immediate customer issues is our top priority at this time. We appreciate the support of customers and colleagues who have already reached out to us”.

HWP customers should call 295-5000, which is an off-site call centre specifically set up to handle customer inquiries. This is currently HWP’s only working phone number.

Customers can also visit www.hwp.bm for regular updates.

HWP Group Body and Paint had a fire yesterday afternoon, as the entire building went up in flames.(Photo by Akil Simmons) August 8,2011
Photo by Mark Tatem Firemen work a hose in the front of the HWP Group's Body and Paint on St Johns Road as flames begin to be controlled yesterday afternoon. August 8,2011

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Published August 09, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 09, 2011 at 9:23 am)

Company boss: Damage is ‘catastrophic’

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