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From fire devastation to digital devotion

In December 2015, an event happened to Barrie Hill and his family that took away everything they had worked for. A fire that had started in a nearby factory had spread to their print firm and was destroying all machinery, personal items, and memories.

Article picture

Barrie Hill in the wreckage of the factory after it was knocked down

The Hills had been at the races, along with extended family, enjoying post-Christmas celebrations. At 2pm, they received a call that no one would want to receive. By the time Hill had rushed home, the fire was raging across the business park.

“We got a phone call saying the factory was on fire,” says Barrie, adding: “It was well ablaze. They just kept moving people back. It was still burning well into the night.”

The fire took several days to put out, with the fire services working through the night to make sure it was fully extinguished. What it left, was a mass of charred, melted, and unrecognisable metal and debris.


I didn’t want to go back to the way it was before


Around eight fire trucks and over 30 firemen tackled the flames, but when the ordeal had ended, Hill and his family were not allowed to see the inside of his business, and never got the chance as the building was knocked down due to the severity of the damage.

The firm even lost all of its data, invoices, and customer information to the fire. Something that took them “nine months to recover from”. Each individual customer had to be called and received an explanation of what had happened.

They lost everything to the fire.

Fast forward to July 2017, and a new venture has risen from the ashes, and now boasts clients such as watchmaker, Sekonda. Hill explains that within a week after the fire, he had to travel to Sekonda and tell them what had happened. The brand was worried, but Hill said that they could still create the products they were asking for offsite, and deliver them.

“We haven’t let them down since,” says Hill, proudly.

Equipment could barely be recognised and was just a pile of mangled metal

Since the devastating fire, Hill has said that the firm have moved to a more digital approach to printing and finishing. He explains that they still outsource their printing, before finishing the product in-house.

Service Press used to operate litho presses, a collection that Hill had created over 30 years. When it came to contacting the insurers, it provided another difficult journey for the family. Hill explains that he only had the invoices for his most recent purchase—a Ryobi four colour offset press—which was replaced by the insurance company. Everything else was taken by the flames.

Hill explains: “I didn’t want to go back to the way it was before.” Instead, the father and daughter run business switched to digital. When asked if he would one day bring printing back in-house, he said that it is not something he is thinking of doing.

It is obvious that the fire is still something that fills Barrie Hill with sadness, but it is not the loss of the equipment that does this, it is the loss of the more personal items. He explains: “There were personal things. Pictures, photos, an England World Cup-winning shirt that was signed.”

Hill is now 65, and at one point, he did think, “do I want to keep going?” However, there was one person that kept him moving forward, and that was his daughter. He explains that he wants the new chapter of Service Press to be for her; something she can control and do mostly on her own—unless there is a problem that required extra help. He also explains that she has been amazing throughout the whole process, and deserves a lot of credit for her strength and determination to bring Service Press out of the ashes.

The rubble left behind after the units were bulldozed

With a new direction for the firm, the equipment that was replaced by the insurance company, is no longer required. The Ryobi 524GX four colour offset press with LED-UV drying system and Cron B3/SRA2 Thermal Computer to Plate System are now up for sale, to aid the move in a different direction from Service Press. 

“The Ryobi is brand new and still in its box,” explains Hill.

He added: “There’s full backing from Ryobi—all the training will be provided by Ryobi.”

When asked if the move forward is something that Hill is enjoying, he explains that “it is exciting” and that it has helped him to come to terms with what has happened in the last 18 months. But with the funding that will be provided by the sale of his equipment, Service Press can continue to flourish again in the print industry.

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