A CLUB manager has described his devastation at seeing his business burn to the ground in a huge Blackpool blaze.
The Trades Club, on Chadwick Street, central Blackpool, has been gutted after a massive fire ripped through both floors and destroyed the roof.
Around 60 residents were evacuated from their homes as the fire raged and 25 houses on Kent Road, Chadwick Street and Erdington Road remained cordoned off last night amid fears the buildings were unsafe.
The club is believed to be one of the oldest trades union clubs in England and was only re-opened by new manager Barry Griezans in May after a brief closure.
Mr Griezans, who watched his business burn in the early hours of yesterday, said: “I got a phone call at 4.40am from the police saying could I come down because it was up in flames.
“The fire looked like it was out when I got here and we were stood close, the next thing the whole roof shot up.
“It’s a local watering hole, there will be a lot of disappointed people. I’ve got no idea what I will do now, it’s a bit shocking really, it’s my livelihood.”
The club was a traditional meeting point for the Trades Council and, although they haven’t met at the venue since Mr Griezans took over.
Trades Council president Jane Rogers said she was upset to see a piece of Blackpool’s history go up in flames.
She added: “It’s sad because it’s been there a long, long time. The trade unions have been using it for at least 100 years and it was the first trade union club in the country.
“It’s very sad because it’s something which will not come back now. It was very popular with the locals, it’s history which is lost.”
The club was due to host a Halloween party last night and was used twice-weekly by a local branch of Slimming World.
Angy Smith, Slimming World consultant, said: “I have had lots of my members calling and texting, devastated at the loss of our venue.
“It is such a shame as Barry, the manager, was just starting to build up the venue and filling it with lots of different activities and events.”
Residents affected by the fire were evacuated to McDonalds, on Rigby Road, before around 25 were taken to an evacuation centre at Dunsop Court, on Dunsop Close.
Susan McKenna lives opposite the club and raised the alarm just after 4am yesterday, calling the fire service and banging on her neighbours doors as smoke filled the street.
The 54-year-old said: “When I looked out of the blinds it was just smoke coming out of the roof and vents. Me and my daughter went separate ways and banged on everyone’s doors and got them up, I had most of the neighbours in my house.”
A total of eight fire engines were sent to tackle the blaze and around three remained at the scene for much of the day while investigations into the cause of the fire took place.
A spokesman for the Fire Service said: “The fire investigation is still ongoing. Our dog went down and he will have been able to sniff out if any accelerants were used.
“We’re looking into the possibility anything could have caused the fire and we’re keeping an open mind.”