PAIGNTON, ENGLAND — British footwear maker Wilton Bradley Ltd. said it will take 12-18 months to rebuild production after a fire wrecked its plant last month. The firm's 70 employees have been out of work since the Dec. 9 blaze destroyed the 48,000-square-foot plant in Paignton. Chairman Bill Bradley said by telephone he hopes to secure warehouse space soon, which will allow the family-owned firm to continue its import business. Shoe production, however, is not expected to resume for at least a year.
The fire began in a locked warehouse and is presumed to be accidental, Bradley said. About 500 nearby residents, and students from four schools, were evacuated as a huge cloud of acrid smoke billowed over a large area of the town. Sixteen people were treated at hospitals for respiratory problems. It took 100 firefighters three hours to get the blaze under control.
Bradley declined to estimate the firm's loss, which included three presses. The 25-year-old company had annual sales of more than 5 million ($8 million), he said.