Jeff Bryan was a 10-minute drive away from his cottage during Thanksgiving weekend last year when he found out his Bishopsgate Road trucking depot was engulfed by a massive industrial blaze.
“A farmer called my mother, who was driving behind us,” said Bryan, owner of Burford-area trucking business Jeff Bryan Transport. “We turned around and the three hour drive home gave us a chance to put a plan together.
“We had to get over the emotions and it became a mechanical fix. There were lots of families counting on our business to succeed.”
Bryan said there was much to do immediately following the devastating fire, which caused $2 million in damage.
“At that point, we had to put the pieces together – fast,” Bryan said. “We initiated an immediate response to make sure our customers and employees were looked after. We set up a temporary office in an older building at the back of our property.”
The company’s main office was still intact, but there was much heat and smoke damage.
“The fire happened on the Friday and on Saturday morning by 7 a.m. we had excavators here digging phone lines for us,” Bryan said. “By Monday at 9 a.m. we were answering our phones in the temporary office.
“We had some major increases in operational costs over the eight months it took to rebuild. Our biggest issue was our truck maintenance was displaced to another location, which created a lot of operational distress.”
The logistics of shipping freight and co-ordinating available drivers were complicated in the aftermath of the fire, Bryan said.
“We operate electronically,” Bryan said. “We realized we needed to keep the business going. We needed to figure out what freight was where and what drivers were where.
“We had to tell some of our customers about the fire because we were distracted.”
Bryan said the company lost two trucks, a trailer, numerous tools and other supplies in the blaze.
Paris-based builder Foodcon, owned by Don Plumstead, rebuilt the shop portion of the trucking business headquarters, which was completely destroyed by the fire, Bryan said.
“(Foodcon) need to be thanked because taking just eight months to rebuild this is really impressive,” Bryan said. “We had loads of help. The trucking community rallied around us.”
Bryan founded the business in 1989 and currently employs about 45 people.
From its operational base at 319 Bishopsgate Rd. near Burford, the business hauls numerous consumer goods.
“You have to want to be in business,” Bryan said. “Someone said to me (after the fire), ‘at this point, you have to decide to pack it in or carry on.’ The right thing to do was just fix it.”
Jeff Bryan Transport will host an open house barbecue to thank businesses and community members who helped rebuild following last year’s fire on Friday from noon to 4 p.m.