Sparks flew when a special takeaway task force swooped on suspect premises in Preston.
The squad launched lightning raids on food shops in New Hall Lane after a worrying spate of fires there in recent weeks. And after a “hugely successful” operation to identify dangerous electrical wiring and equipment, a warning was flashed to hundreds of other takeaways across Lancashire: “Beware - you could be getting a visit too.”
Teams of fire, police, electricity, environmental health and housing officers descended on the premises, taking owners and staff by surprise.
Of six shops raided, three were found to have serious electrical issues which resulted in one meter being removed and a further two isolated. In one fast food shop worryingly high levels of carbon monoxide were detected in the kitchen.
“This isn’t about trying to put people out of business, it’s about saving lives,” said Brad Walker, area fire safety manager at Preston. “We suspect all these premises have accommodation above them and, if there is a fire, there is a chance people could be killed.
“This operation followed three fires in New Hall Lane in the space of a few weeks. One was started by either an electrical fault or illegally obtained electricity and the other two were caused by extraction units not being cleaned correctly. In all three fires people were upstairs and, fortunately, they were able to get out unharmed. One day someone might not be so lucky, so these visits are about preventing fatalities.
“The vast majority of owners are receptive to what we are doing, but there are always some who won’t engage with us. They are the ones we are concerned about.”
Thermal imaging cameras were used to detect overheated wiring - a sign that meters have been bypassed. All the premises are to get follow-up visits to check work has been done.”