Horsham tree care firm blaze 'caused by chainsaw thieves'
Thieves who targeted a tree care firm have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage after the site was badly damaged in a blaze.
Firefighters were called to Holder Tree Services in Cowfold, near Horsham, just before 06:00 BST on Tuesday.
Fire-damaged equipment included a wood-chipper, stump grinder and tractor, while more than 20 chainsaws and hedge-cutters were stolen.
Owner Dan Holder estimated the total damage amounted to about £150,000.
He said the business was previously targeted four years ago when chainsaws worth about £20,000 were stolen.Image copyright Holder Tree Services Image caption The total amount of damage is estimated to be about £150,000
All its equipment was fitted with immobilisers and trackers but "the electronics get ripped out all the time", he said.
He said the chainsaws, hedge-cutters and climbing equipment stolen overnight on Monday were worth more than £23,000.
The business employs seven people, and Mr Holder said that despite the coronavirus crisis they had still been able to work.
"We've still got one truck and one chipper, so a team of guys will be out working again tomorrow," he said.
"I plan ahead in case we get robbed, but I don't plan for the entire yard to get blown up."Image copyright Holder Tree Services Image caption Mr Holder said he did not believe the thieves intended to set fire to the site
Mr Holder said he did not believe the thieves intended to set fire to the site.
"They cut in [to the site] above a load of chainsaw fuel, and probably set it off by accident."
He added that there would be a knock-on effect for up to 30 companies they worked with.
"All for chainsaws - it would have been easier to give them the keys if that's all they wanted," he said.
Sussex Police said it was investigating and was keen to speak to anyone offered equipment.