Businesses and an industrial estate devastated by a massive inferno have literally risen from the ashes.
It was five years ago today that a fierce blaze tore through the Lancashire Business Park in Leyland.
Not only has it bounced back, it has attracted major new tenants, including Amazon.
County Coun Niki Penney, chairman of owners Lancashire County Developments Ltd, said: “It’s hard to believe that five years have gone by since the fire. It’s great to hear that the companies affected at the time are doing so well now.
“We were pleased to be able to support them in the immediate aftermath by finding them alternative accommodation.”
Steve Sugden, of H Parkinson Haulage, said: “Not only have we come back, but we’ve come back and expanded.”
The county council-owned park now houses even more units, including the massive new Amazon warehouse.
“Not only have we come back, but we’ve come back and expanded. It’s better than ever,” said Steve Sugden, general manager of H Parkinson Haulage, known as HPH.
It was on December 21, 2011 that the fire broke out at the sprawling site in Centurion Way.
The 238-acre site was then home to around 50 employers, with a total workforce of around 1,250 people.
H Parkinson Haulage and a Bowker’s storage unit were razed to the ground, along with three other unnamed buildings.
A spokesman for Lancashire Fire said at the time it was the biggest building fire the service had dealt with for 10 years.
Only moorland fires in recent years required a greater number of firefighters.
More than 20 appliances were involved at the height of the blaze.
Bowker Transport was gutted by the fire, which is believed to have started in neighbouring H Parkinson Haulage’s unit on Lancashire Enterprise Business Park at around 5pm.
Steve Sugden, who became general manager at HPH nine months ago, said: “I live locally and I was aware of the fire, and being here now I know what happened and what they went through.
“At the time, I think it was doubtful whether the business could continue, there was a decision to be made as to whether the business could continue.
“Customers’ goods were stored in the warehouse.
“There were insurance claims, but it’s the disruption that’s the challenge.”
But Mr Sugden said, since the devastation of the fire, the business had gone from strength to strength.
He said: “Since then, we have recently moved to a new head office at Preston north, and there’s been a massive investment in a new fleet.
“With the investment in new equipment we are moving the business forward, tendering for new business and new contracts.
“So the future is looking bright.
“Because it’s a family business, there’s a spirit of fighting back and bringing it back.
“The company has grown and the fleet has increased.”
Neil Bowker, commercial director of Bowker, described at the time how he arrived at the scene at 5.30pm to see flames devouring the building, which the transport logistics firm had occupied since 1994.
He said: “There was fire licking through the roof and a lot of smoke from our neighbour’s property.
“I just watched it spread. It went pretty quickly. We were helpless.”
W H Bowker Ltd now operates a road transport fleet of more than 200 trucks, in excess of 450 trailers, and over 1,000,000 square feet of warehousing, employing more than 750 people within its
Its new base is in Bamber Bridge.
Established in 1953, H Parkinson Haulage Ltd has accumulated over 60 years experience and expertise in the road haulage business;
It is now thriving at its new base at Walton le Dale.
County councillor Niki Penney, chairman of Lancashire County Developments Ltd, said: “Lancashire Business Park has gone from strength to strength since 2011.
“The buildings destroyed in the fire were replaced by two brand-new 168,000 square foot units which are now occupied by two established businesses in Amazon and Accrol Paper.
“Network Rail will also shortly take over the railways sidings as part of their work on the electrification of the Preston-Blackpool line.
“In total, these businesses will have provided around 500 jobs for the local community.
“With good rates of occupancy across the park and the potential for further expansion, we’re looking forward to continued success as one of the North West’s premier business locations.”
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Business Park has seen significant regeneration since the devastating fire five years ago.
“It has seen some major employers locating to the site which now offers state of the art high-quality office, industrial and warehouse units.
“It is a testament to all of those involved in the redevelopment work of what is now one of the North West’s premier business locations.”