Specialist arson investigators have moved in to inspect the wreckage of a furniture store, destroyed in a huge fire overnight.
More than 80 firefighters from across Lancashire battled to control a blaze at Ron N Nat’s Furniture Factory in Dunmore Street, Preston, which began around 1am.
Roads had to be closed around the scene off Ribbleton Lane as crews from 14 fire appliances, with three aerial platforms and a specialist hazardous materials unit were deployed to tackle the inferno.
Initially two appliances from Preston were sent to the scene, but other crews from further afield were called in to help prevent the fire spreading to other premises nearby.
The fire brigade and police used two special Air Support Unit drones to help direct the operation from above the 100m by 50m unit.
“They were so valuable in assessing what was going on,” said the incident commander, group manager Simon Bone.
“When we got here it was quite an intense fire. We brought in 14 fire appliances and four specialist units made up of three aerial ladder platforms and one hazmat unit because of the asbestos in the roof.
“The buildings in this area are very close and, considering how intense the fire was, we have done very, very well to prevent it spreading to any adjacent buildings.”
Fire crews and an aerial platform remain at the scene, tackling hotspots in the remains of the building.
Julian Williams, station manager at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Nobody’s been injured. The cause of the fire is under investigation at the moment, but we’ve got our arson investigators on site.
“Also on site are Preston City Council building inspectors to check the stability of the building - there are issues with parts of that, and also there are contaminated materials around we’re going to get cleared up shortly, so it’s safe and clean for the people walking past.
“We’ll expect for a few hours for the fire engines to remain here, possibly one or two. At some point the affected building will be fenced off to keep people out of there.”
Police closed Ribbleton Lane in both directions throughout the night and it reopened at 9am. Other smaller roads have also now been reopened, but St Mary’s Street is blocked one-way.
The owner of the furniture business was too upset to talk about the fire today.
But Surjit Sanghera, sales manager of the nearby Hughes electrical store, said: “We’ve been very, very lucky to only have smoke damage and I can’t thank the fire service and police enough. They did a marvellous job.
“I got a phone call at around 2am and I got down here at 3am. I must admit I feared the worst.
“I expected our unit and some of the others to go up with it.”
Owners of businesses around the blaze were unable to open up this morning and were kept away from the scene while damping down went on.”
“We haven’t a clue when we will be allowed back in our premises,” said one