Man arrested in shop fire probe

The scene of the fire on Birley Street, Blackpool
The scene of the fire on Birley Street, Blackpool
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A MAN has been quizzed by detectives on suspicion of arson after a blaze ripped through a Blackpool shop.

Two men were taken to hospital after fleeing the fire, which gutted the former Poundstoppers store and a flat above, on Birley Street around 5am yesterday.

Police today said they were keeping an “open mind” surrounding the cause of the fire but confirmed they had arrested a 35-year-old man from Blackpool on suspicion of arson. He has since been released on bail pending further inquiries.

Det Sgt Steve Coleman, from Blackpool CID, said: “The investigation is at an early stage. We are keeping an open mind but if there were any witnesses in the area who may have smelt smoke or seen anything suspicious, if they can give us a ring it would be appreciated.

“We have spoken to someone who was rescued from the fire and he has provided an account to us. We are carrying out further inquiries.”

Around 50 firefighters were sent to extinguish the blaze.

Officers remained at the scene yesterday and drafted in a fire dog to check whether any flammable accelerants had been used.

Click here to read how The Gazette broke the story.

A building inspector is due to visit the property before police will be allowed inside to carry out their internal investigation of the premises.

Det Sgt Coleman added: “Hopefully we will be in the building today. We have got to wait for a building inspector to attend and deem the building safe. We’re still keeping a presence at the building for health and safety reasons.”

The two casualties who fled the flat were taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

One 35-year-old man was treated for smoke inhalation and was discharged yesterday. The other man was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester where he is being treated for severe burns.

Businesses on Birley Street praised firefighters for their work.

Cat Slater, stylist at Indigo hairdressers, said: “It’s incredible they managed to contain the fire and stop it from spreading.”

Angela Walmsley, owner of cafe Via Veneto, said: “We had to close for a couple of hours but there were no flames when we arrived. They must have got it under control early.”

Any witnesses to the fire are asked to call the police on 101.

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