A MAN has described the dramatic moment he spotted a timber fire that went on to engulfed a factory warehouse at the weekend.

Jason Taylor was told his prompt response have given firefighters vital minutes that helped them save machinery from the fire, which caused extensive damage to a large warehouse Appletree Joinery in Linde Way, on the Aycliffe Business Park, on Sunday.

Residents were urged to keep all doors and windows shut at one point as a huge plume of smoke hung over the area as dozens of fire fighters in up to ten appliances tackled the fire.

Mr Taylor, of Bishop Auckland, who runs Draco Cleaning Services, said: “I was working on the roof of a building across the road from Appletree Joinery when I heard the alarm going off at about 8.40am.

“I saw a white bit of smoke and then black smoke coming from the warehouse. I thought I better call it in to the fire brigade, even if it was a waste of time, and got down off the roof.

"I went over to the factory and spoke to the fire marshal who said he thought it was the boiler. I said 'it’s not the boiler the building is on fire, but don’t worry I’ve called it in'."

He added: "We opened up the factory and I walked through and there was smoke above our heads. So we went into the back yard and the whole back of the factory was on fire.

"It started in the smaller warehouse and spread across to the bigger one. They had a seven tonne truck in there that caught fire as well."

Mr Taylor said he was told it was lucky he had spotted the fire and acted promptly, because in another half an hour the whole factory would have been gone.

He said: "The fire brigade were really quick in arriving . They were there within four minutes. I thought they had the fire under control at one point, but then it just started spreading. They said the fire in the warehouse reached something like 600 degrees. The firefighters managed to save the machinery which is really good."

A spokesman for the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said one appliance remained at the scene yesterday to damp it down.

Appletree Joinery declined to comment about the fire, while a spokesman for Durham Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.