Preston City Council sets to reassure residents concerned about safety of vacant buildings after devastating fire rips through St David’s Church

Preston City Council sought to reassure concerned residents following an increase of fires at vacant buildings in the city.
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Emergency services were called after a fire broke out at St David’s Church in Eldon Street at around 6am on Thursday (October 27).

Crews sadly found a body among the ruins after the fire was extinguished.

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Police later confirmed the man had been identified and the fire was not being treated as suspicious after it was deemed accidental.

Emergency services at the scene of a fire at St David’s Church in Eldon Street, PrestonEmergency services at the scene of a fire at St David’s Church in Eldon Street, Preston
Emergency services at the scene of a fire at St David’s Church in Eldon Street, Preston

The blaze followed fires at the former Odeon Cinema/ Tokyo Jo’s nightclub, St Joseph's Orphanage and BHS store.

Following the most recent fire at St David’s Church, Coun Matthew Brown, Leader of Preston City Council, sought to reassure the community that the safety of the city’s residents was the council’s main concern and top priority.

“The loss of St David’s Church and the news that somebody may have perished in the fire is tragic and very sad and we understand that some residents may be concerned about the safety of other vacant or derelict property in their area,” he said.

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“We want to reassure the public that the council is working closely with partners to ensure that community safety is paramount and a tragedy such as this one doesn’t happen again.”

A huge blaze at the old Odeon cinema in Preston city centre (Credit: LFRS)A huge blaze at the old Odeon cinema in Preston city centre (Credit: LFRS)
A huge blaze at the old Odeon cinema in Preston city centre (Credit: LFRS)
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Preston City Council acknowledged there had been a recent rise in reports and intelligence regarding unauthorised access into vacant and derelict buildings.

They said this was sometimes by rough sleepers but also more recently by ‘urban explorers’ – thrill seeking individuals videoing the experience on social media platforms.

The council added the responsibility of vacant buildings lies with the owners, not with the local authority, but they were carrying out preventive action in partnership with Lancashire Police and Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service that focused on unoccupied, abandoned buildings in the city.

Firefighters at the former BHS store in FishergateFirefighters at the former BHS store in Fishergate
Firefighters at the former BHS store in Fishergate
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They added Safer Streets Officers carry out regular checks and risk assessments of buildings, working closely with the owners to act responsibly, and to take stronger measures to prevent unauthorised entry.

Checklist for owners of vacant or disused properties:

- Regular monitoring either remotely or through regular on site visits

- Keeping up repairs and maintaining the safety of the premises

Fire crews at St Joseph's OrphanageFire crews at St Joseph's Orphanage
Fire crews at St Joseph's Orphanage

- List all risks and identify solutions

- Installing fire and safety equipment on the premises such as fire alarms, CCTV, burglar alarms etc

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- Consider employing an estate management company to keep the property secure and safe

- Plan ahead, if it is likely that a property may stand empty for a long period of time, devise a strategy to prevent deterioration and maintain security.

- Secure storage and dispose of all waste responsibly to prevent rubbish fires on the premises

- Does the premises need locked or gated access to prevent fly tipping?

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Preston City Council added fire and firework safety information which is delivered to young people throughout the city to prevent accidental fires and injuries was also a very important part of its prevention campaign.

To report suspicious behaviour at a vacant property can call 101 or visit https://www.police.uk/pu/contact-the-police/.