A GARAGE owner was hit by a double tragedy when he watched his business go up in flames just hours after returning from his brother's funeral.
John Allen, 65, opened Allen's Coach Painters on Lower Barnes Street, Clayton-le-Moors, in 1970 and on Monday he attended the funeral of his brother David, who had fought a 12-month battle against lung cancer.
But just hours after returning to his home on Spring Hall, Clayton, he was shocked to get a phone call telling him about the blaze.
He said: "When I got there, I could see smoke coming from underneath the door and then the Fire Brigade came. As time went on the heat became more intense and they had to evacuate the premises.
"I just stood there watching it and it was awful. It just didn't register with me at all. And what made it even worse was the fact that it was on the same day as David's funeral.
"It was like a nightmare watching the building burn down and the heat was so intense."
Mr Allen, who is married to Sheila and has two daughters Alison and Lyndsey, is planning to continue the bodywork business in new premises.
Seven cars were destroyed in the blaze, three of them belonging to customers and the others to Mr Allen.
He added: "My first priority now is to let the police sort things out and to wait for the insurance to come through. Since Monday the phone has never stopped."
Fireman watch manager Phil Jones said: "The fire was one of the largest we have been to this month.
"We think it started in the basement and then spread elsewhere. We had to evacuate our crews as it was too dangerous to stay in the building. At this time we are not sure how the fire started."
A police spokesman confirmed that the blaze was being investigated. He added that the building was set to be partly demolished this week.