AN ESTATE agent who had to close his premises as a result of a town centre fire has reopened for business.

David Hawkins Estate Agents, on Front Street, Stanley, County Durham, suffered serious smoke and water damage following an arson attack which spread through neighbouring properties on Friday, December 13.

Principal David Hawkins, who praised firefighters for preventing the blaze from spreading to his property, said telephone calls to the firm had been redirected during the temporary closure - allowing trade to continue.

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A number of other businesses were forced to close following the blaze. Mr Hawkins said: “It has been very stressful time. This is the second time we have been affected by fire. “When fire broke out in the old Co-operative building over five years ago we suffered water damage.

“The latest fire spread quickly through neighbouring premises, but we have a party wall which prevented the blaze spreading to us quickly.

“The heat generated by the fire damaged three to four trusses in the roof space but they are structurally sound.

“The fire would have continued and finished us completely, had it not been for the speedy action of the fire brigade.

“Firefighters removed the windows upstairs and pumped water into the first floor to cool the wall down and get into the roof space.

“We had thousands of gallons of water coming down from the first floor.”

He added: “The fire brigade were superb and very comforting at the time of great stress and the police were very helpful.

“We manage properties for 120 landlords and have also had terrific support from our workers.”