OXFAM bosses have described their devastation over the loss of the Huddersfield Wastesaver plant.
The warehouse, which sorts through thousands of tonnes of donated clothes and textiles, was the only operation of its kind in the country.
It raises around £1m for the charity each year and plays a vital part in keeping up stock in its shops across the country.
Tens of thousands of pounds worth of clothing and vital production machinery were destroyed in the blaze.
The charity has vowed to get the work up and running as soon as possible, but admitted that the loss of the plant will put a big strain on its fundraising efforts.
David McCollough, Oxfam’s director of trading, said: “It’s dreadful. It has been part of Oxfam since 1967 and a shock to the staff as quite a lot of them have been working there for a long time.
“We are concerned because it is a key part of our operations.
“The warehouse is critical as it enables us to take surplus stock out of shops and resell it elsewhere through our other shops and online around the world.
“But now getting the surplus stock out of our shops and keeping it moving is going to be big challenge.
“If we are unable to keep the stock fresh and at the same levels then that is going to impact on the amount of money we make for our projects.
“The warehouse also generates upwards of £1m for us a year which is a big amount of money.”
The charity raises money to fight poverty and suffering worldwide.
The textile sorting facility at Beck Road is the only operation of its kind to be run by a charity and a team of over 60 staff work to sort through thousands of donations to maximise their revenue.
Items are then resold through Oxfam shops, online, at festivals and to textile wholesalers in the UK and overseas.
These include valuable vintage clothing found thanks to the expertise of the Huddersfield staff.
The charity has three warehouses on the site hit by the blaze at the weekend.
Mr McCollough said it looked like two of the buildings where some clothing is stored and packed up escaped being too badly damaged.
But the warehouse where the production machinery was kept was completely devastated and it is likely that it will be pulled down.
The charity has not yet been allowed on the site to assess the damage, but is likely to be some time before a permanent alternative is be found.Related content
But staff are now looking for alternative premises in the town and hope to start their work sorting clothes again in days.
The charity hopes to keep them all in work and on full pay.
It also aims to source some of the work to other warehouses around the country but says the scale of the operation will be much more basic.
Mr McCollough said: “We have lost tens of thousands of pounds worth of clothes and all the production machinery.
“What happened is going to put the plant out of action for the foreseeable future but we are working on contingency plans including having temporary units.
“The team are fantastic and the way they are working at the moment we will be up and running by the end of the week – but the work will be more manual and take more time.
“We need to keep stock in our shops and staff will be working hard to keep it all moving.
“Donations are our lifeblood and if people can help by bringing some donations to their local shop that would be very much appreciated.
“At the charity we are pretty good with dealing with disasters so hopefully we will be pretty good at dealing with this one”.