Arsonists who torched a row of garages could easily have started a serious fire and sparked major damage, firefighters today said.
An investigation is underway in Fleetwood following the blaze at a block of garages on Monday.
Firefighters had to break into the single-storey buildings, on Milton Street, to tackle the fire at 6.55pm.
Two crews from the town tackled the blaze.
Four out of a row of seven garages were on fire when the crews arrived and it was first feared cars were parked inside.
However, only one car was found in one of the garages which was not alight, but rubbish was discovered, which firefighters say contributed to the blaze.
A police investigation is now taking place to find the culprits after firefighters identified the blaze as one which could only have started deliberately.
The probe comes as firefighters warned the fire could have been much worse, and revealed arsonists were wasting vital firefighting resources by deliberately starting fires in Fleetwood.
Crew manager Kev Warwick, from Fleetwood Fire Station, said: “We got the call about 6.55pm and when we turned out from the station we knew it was a big job because we could see the smoke coming from it.
“Because of the amount of smoke coming out of the garage we got two lads into breathing apparatus and had two jets working to extinguish the fire.
“We had to break in to a couple to see the damage and put fire breaks in the roof to stop it spreading across.
“It looks as though an external ignition source has been used, and police are leading a criminal investigation.”
Crew manager Warwick added the incident could have affected others if another fire had broken out.
He added: “There was a car further down and storage within three of the four garages that weren’t affected, but left to develop it could have affected the properties.
“It had a wooden structure going through it and could have spread to the homes.
“Although they were empty the spread could have gone on to cause great damage.
“It was unknown to us at the time, but if there were cylinders or canisters in there - because people do store them in garages – it could have caused damage to us.
“If we are there putting these fires out and a house fire happens at the same time we could be delayed getting there because someone is setting fires needlessly.”
Official Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service figures reveal there were 21 rubbish fires started between May 20 2013 and May 19 this year in Fleetwood.
A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service added: “One fire like this is too many because fires in a bin can spread to properties.
“What we advise people to do is keep their bins in secure areas and not next to homes incase they are set on fire.
“There’s one full time fire station in Fleetwood and one retained. More often than not they will be sent out and the retained engine will be left to deal with anything else.”
Detectives are now studying CCTV as part of their investigation and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.
A spokeswoman for Lancashire Police said: “There are no obvious accidental causes so it is being treated as suspicious.
“No-one was hurt as a result of the fire but Blackpool CID are investigating and are appealing for anyone who might have seen the fire started or saw anyone acting suspiciously at the time contact DS Mark Dickinson on 101, quoting log number 1192 of May 19.”