Major fire rips through Blackpool building

HUNDREDS of residents had to flee their homes today after a huge blaze broke out in central Blackpool.

The fire, which was described as like a "war zone", started at just after 3.40am on a construction site on Talbot Road, close to Mecca Bingo.

As firefighters tackled the flames, police evacuated some 200 people from their homes.

A passing police officer alerted the emergency services after he saw smoke pouring from the building site.

Watch manager Ian Richards, from Blackpool's Forest Gate fire station, said: "When we arrived it was like a war zone. There were backyards and garages on fire. The main priority was getting people out as quickly as possible.

"It's lucky no-one was seriously injured or killed."

Insp Paul Gabbitas, from Blackpool Police, added: "A patrolling officer noticed smoke coming from the building and upon going to investigate discovered a large fire at the site, which is currently being converted into flats.

"A swift evacuation was then put in place to evacuate residents nearby."

Motorists are being warned to expect severe traffic delays around the site as roads have been closed.

Police have closed Talbot Road and Devonshire Road through to Talbot Road and Lark Hill Street.

Gorton Street, Edelston Road, Buchanan Street and Victory Street have also been closed.

Diversions have been put in place down Caunce Street.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control in 45 minutes and are now dampening down the scene.

Watch manager Richards said: "We were very proud at the fact we managed to contain the damage to just one terrace because at one point it looked like the whole row would go up."

A police and fire brigade investigation is under way.

Blackpool Sports Centre will be closed to the public today as staff continue to provide support to evacuees.

Anyone who has a fitness induction should still attend and the all-weather pitches will remain open.

>> Residents tell of terror at the flames