Help for Jason after 30 years of work goes up in smoke

June 28 2019
Help for Jason after 30 years of work goes up in smoke

A COMMUNITY is pulling together to help a mechanic and his family after the massive fire at Strachan and Henshaw in Speedwell wiped out his business.

JASON Pittaway is a man who is used to doing things for himself.

The dad-of-four has always been super-fit and has run his own business for the best part of 30 years.

But when the self-employed mechanic donated a kidney to his eldest son Nico, 27, he needed to take a couple of months off work to recover. Then, weeks after going back, his entire business was one of 30 wiped out in a massive fire at the former Strachan and Henshaw factory in Speedwell.

Jason, who lives in Downend with his wife Jo and two youngest children – 15-year-old Josh and Jazmine, 7 – lost everything he needed to ply his trade in the blaze, below.

Strachan and Henshaw fire

Ramps, hoists, diagnostic equipment and a huge collection of tools, built up over 30 years, were engulfed – along with two classic BMWs Jason was restoring, and several other vehicles.

Jason estimates that he lost around £100,000 in the fire and because of safety issues with the building he, like other tenants, was unable to get contents insurance.

Worst of all, the 45-year-old is unable to put his skills to work as he tries to start over, as everything he needed to trade as a mechanic was inside the gutted workshop.

Jason said: “I didn’t even have a screwdriver or spanner at home – everything was down at the garage. Losing your tools means your ability to earn is taken away.

About 30 years of business has gone up in smoke. I’m trying to start again, as much as I can.”

High blood pressure had caused Nico’s kidneys to fail and he was on dialysis for two years before Jason was found to be a match and a transplant arranged for the end of January.

Jason had no doubts he could handle the physical demands of being a kidney donor, after years of taekwondo and tough running events.

He said: “The weekend before I donated my kidney, I did a 50k ultra-marathon.

I was in hospital for two days and felt alright after the operation but I took my time recovering because I didn’t want to get a hernia – I was told that after three months it should be all mended.”

Jason Pittaway and Nico

Nico, above with Jason after his operation, is recovering well and by the middle of April, Jason was back at work but within weeks, his business was gone.

Jason has been labouring and doing occasional car maintenance work but says even changing brakes takes far longer without his equipment.

Jo is a cook at Christ Church Infants School and to help the family out, her colleagues there are helping to host a fundraising barbecue evening.

The event was due to take place at the school from 4pm to 7pm on Friday, June 28. It includes music, games, a cake sale and bar. Entry costs £3 on the gate and everyone is welcome to come along.

Downend Round Table, which fundraises for good causes in the area, is offering to match the amount raised at the fun day and is also lending the school a bouncy castle for the event.

School administrator Cath Evans said head teacher Anna Martin suggested helping out when colleagues heard what had happened to the family.

Cath said: “Jo is always the first to volunteer to help with events at school, coming in and cooking outside her hours. This just seemed like a good opportunity to help Jo and her family, because she does so much for us.”

Jo said: “We don’t like asking but a lot of people have offered to help.”

Jason says the cost of starting up a new workshop from scratch is likely to be too much but he plans to start a recovery business with a truck.

He said: “I really appreciate people trying to help out – it’s not going to replace everything but every penny counts. If I can buy the basics, I can start off my own business again.”

Jason’s brother Brett has set up a fundraising page for online donations to the family, which can be found at bit.ly/2XMDxsW.

Jason had been intending to leave the workshops in Foundry Lane, where he had been based for 11 years, but had not been able to find suitable new premises before the fire.

Fire aftermath at Jason Pittaway's garage

 Jason Pittaway's garage after the fire

He says that since then, he and other businesses have heard nothing from the owners, Douglas Homes Housing Incorporated. The Voice has also contacted the company but has yet to receive a reply. The fire is being treated as suspicious but investigators have not been inside the building, for safety reasons.