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Wendy and Melbourne Simpson. The Arson Squad are investigating a suspicious fire that caused $2 million of damage in Guildford on Christmas Day.

Guildford rocked by blaze

By Claire Ottaviano

THERE is no telling how long it will be until Guildford’s historic antique and café strip returns to normal after a fire gutted three small businesses and severely impacted three others late on Christmas night.

Little A’s Cafe, Basic Elements and Chocolate Chilli Pork Company received extensive damage and are currently closed.

Curio Warehouse, Dr Russell’s Imaginarium and Retrofind were also significantly affected by smoke and water damage and/or power outages.

One of the worst affected, Chocolate Chilli Pork Company owners Melbourne and Wendy Simpson said they were in limbo while they waded through a difficult and lengthy insurance process.

“Initially the way we looked at it was positivity, there are lots of people out there doing it tough and we have to look forward, we have to get on with it but with everything being in limbo it starts to drag you down,” Mr Simpson said.

“Right now we don’t know when we will be able to open again.

“Even if we could open in six months, there’s no way we can survive for six months without our business.”

Just three weeks shy of the shop’s fifth anniversary, Mr Simpson said hurtful comments on social media regarding business insurance had not been helpful.

“With small businesses it usually takes about five years to get to the stage where you’re starting to make money,” Mr Simpson said.

“We just survived bloody COVID and we came into this year with a real positive outlook on the next 12 months and then bang, it’s all gone.

“We’ve all got different stories but we don’t all go out of our way to tell it – that’s what some people on social media don’t understand.”

What had been helpful however, was the community spirit of local residents and customers.

“There was one lady who used to walk past in the morning with her dogs – our whole conversation was ‘good morning’ and ‘hello’,” Mrs Simpson said.

“She came back when we were cleaning out [after the fire] and gave me an envelope with $500.

“It was like, wow, those sort of things make you think, yes we have to reopen.

“You feel like you owe the community to come back.”

A GoFundMe page for the group of shops has raised almost $16,000 with a second fund set up separately for Little A’s pulling in $12,000.

Mrs Simpson said the fund had “saved them” by helping to pay incoming bills in the short term.

The James Street Guildford Fire Fund was organised by local Tamatha Smith who was compelled to “step up and do something” after reading news of the fire.

Despite Arson Squad investigations into a possible arsonist, Mr Simpson said he was not out for blood.

“To start off I was really angry, but these people obviously need some help, they’ve got some mental issue that needs to be addressed,” he said.

“Society is too quick to abandon those that need mental help, but they may also be just a low life degenerate, I don’t know.

“Either way the authorities need to make the decision, we don’t want any vigilantism.”

Business owners allege CCTV footage captured two people taking selfies with the fire shortly after it was lit, but WA Police could not confirm any further details of the investigation.

About The Editorial Team

Echo News gives readers an alternative to other media outlets in WA and enjoys a very high rate of readership in its distribution area. Our Echo News team are a small group of devoted individuals who work hard to give the local community an easy to read, yet intelligent mix of local community stories.

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