Callous arsonists have left volunteers at a Chichester charity shop distraught after destroying valuable donations.
A large clothing donation bank was completely destroyed, including its contents, which would have fetched hundreds of pounds for the British Heart Foundation shop in North Street.
Three large rubbish bins filled with unsaleable donations were also gutted by the fire which took hold at the back door of the shop just hours before the bins would have been emptied on Tuesday (August 16) morning. The fire could have had even more tragic consequences as it was just inches away from the shop’s stock room, piled high with donations, and the North Street shops, and flats.
Manager Rebecca Hilsdon has appealed for help in replacing the lost stock, and condemned the act which could directly affect the charity’s ability to fund specialist nurses.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It could rob people of life-saving help.
“At the end of the day it’s a charity, we raise money for people with heart conditions for children and adults, and the work we do at this shop pays for three heart nurses a year.
“With a recession on and everything else, it’s extremely hard to keep going.
“The people of Chichester I know are fantastically generous and we would like to appeal to them to please come and donate.
Deputy district fire and rescue service commander for Chichester, Lee Street, praised the quick call by a member of the public which allowed the fire service to be at the scene within five minutes of the call at 2.08am.
“People do not appreciate the amount of energy that’s stored in large bins, and then you combine that with the contents and what looks fairly innocuous will turn into a fairly major fire, fairly quickly,” he said.
“The fires we have had in the city, because of the buildings, have been very quick developing.”
Aside from the fire, the volunteers at the shop are regularly confronted by bin raiders at the back door, and have on occasions been threatened and approached.
“We are regularly confronted by bin raiders,” added Mrs Hilsdon. “We have been threatened, we have called the police on a regular basis, it’s a nightmare.
“One morning I have opened the bin up and found someone in there. Some are foreign, they are drunk, or homeless.
“There was one the other day who actually came at us.”
Police are investigating the incident and are asking for witnesses to come forward to either the fire, or of charity’s bins being raided.
A police spokesman said: “We are aware that there have been problems elsewhere in the country with people either trying to steal from charity bins of this sort or undertaking fraudulent collections, but this hasn’t been a problem in Sussex.
“If you have any information, please call 0845 60 70 999 quoting serial 118 of 16/08 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”