UPDATED: Homes evacuated as crews battle ‘inferno’

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Homes closest to a wood mill in Lancashire were evacuated amid fears of a “toxic threat” as 10 fire crews battled a major blaze.

Other residents were urged to stay indoors as firefighters continued to work at the site.

Fire crews were called to Whitfire Shavings and Sawdust Supplies Ltd in Church Lane, Farington Moss just after 9am on Tuesday.

Initially, four fire engines were at the scene on the residential street, but 10 engines and an aerial ladder platform (ALP) have now been called out.

Police urged residents to stay indoors and close windows amid fears of a “toxic threat”, and nine homes have been evacuated.

There are fears there could be asbestos at the site.

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings. Picture from Lancashire Fire and Rescue

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings. Picture from Lancashire Fire and Rescue

The blaze involves six buildings containing compressed sawdust, and about 90 firefighters are at the scene, along with police.

There have been no reported injuries.

A Lancashire police spokesman said tonight: “We are continuing to assist Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service as they deal with a fire at Whitefire Shavings, Church Lane at Farington Moss.

“Residents who were evacuated from their houses have been able to return to their properties and police presence has been reduced to a basic cordon.

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings. Picture from Lancashire Fire and Rescue

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings. Picture from Lancashire Fire and Rescue

“Some road closures will remain in place overnight with access for residents only while LFRS continue to dampen down the fire.

“It is expected that there will be a return to normality by tomorrow morning.

“We would like to thank our partner agencies and the public for all of their cooperation and support throughout the day.”

VIDEO: Huge blaze captured on camera

Smoke plume coming from a fire at Whitfire Shavings in Church Lane, Farington Moss. Picture: @sameLove

Smoke plume coming from a fire at Whitfire Shavings in Church Lane, Farington Moss. Picture: @sameLove

Fire crews said several bulk sawdust warehouses, in an area measuring 100 metres by 100 metres, were on fire.

Firefighters are using the aerial ladder platform’s water jet from above, two ground monitors (jets) and several hand-held jets.

Crews at the scene are from Leyland, Bamber Bridge, Penwortham, Darwen, Blackburn, Hyndburn, Preston, Fulwood, Burnley, Longridge and Tarleton.

There are also extra resources of two ALPs, a control unit, a high volume pump and a total of approximately ninety firefighters.

Road closures are in place around the site, and neighbours are reporting “flames everywhere”, describing the scene as an “inferno”.

David Riding, who lives close to where the fire broke out, said: “It’s terrible, there are flames everywhere.

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings. Picture from Lancashire Fire and Rescue

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings. Picture from Lancashire Fire and Rescue

“The sky is black, it’s like an inferno,

“There’s plastic and all sorts falling out of the sky.”

Neighbour Isa McDermott, who lives in School Lane, added: “There’s thick black smoke going for about 150 feet up into the air.

“There have been about three or four explosions that sounded like gas canisters.

“You can see the tops of the flames.

“It looks like a nuclear explosion the way it’s coming up, and the wind is blowing it towards Preston.”

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VIDEO: Huge blaze captured on camera

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VIDEO: Firefighters tackling huge blaze

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings in Leyland.
Pic: Brian Ellis

Major fire at Whitfire Shavings in Leyland. Pic: Brian Ellis

Smoke coming from a huge fire at Whitfire Shavings Ltd in Church Lane near Lostock Hall. Picture: Keith Martin

Smoke coming from a huge fire at Whitfire Shavings Ltd in Church Lane near Lostock Hall. Picture: Keith Martin