A massive blaze ripped through a Blackpool bar as workers fled for their lives.
Flames tore through Walkabout on Queen Street at 5.30am on Wednesday.
Twelve staff sleeping upstairs were woken by a fire alarm and managed to escape the inferno unhurt.
More than 70 firefighters were drafted in from across the Fylde coast to tackle the blaze which was still burning at 10am.
Flames could be seen leaping from the roof.
Roads around Queen Street were closed to traffic as scores of onlookers watched crews try to bring the blaze under control.
A spokesman for Walkabout said: “We can confirm that staff were woken by the fire alarm at around 05.30.
“There were 12 members of staff sleeping in the staff accommodation at the time and all evacuated the building safely.
“The fire services were called and arrived on the scene within 15 minutes.
“At this stage we do not know how the fire started or the extent of the damage. As soon as we know more, we will let you know.
“Our biggest concern was for the safety of our staff, so we’re very pleased that everyone got out OK and that no one was harmed.
“There was no danger to any of the people living in the building at the time, which is the most important thing.
“As soon as the fire brigade get inside, then it will be a case of seeing what the damage is but at the moment it is too early to say.”
Wesley Davies, 28, the owner of the Tapas Bar on Queen Street, said: “The police rang me at 6.30am to tell me to get out and I looked out of my window I thought I’d better get moving.
“I had not been back in so I don’t know what has happened to my stuff, but it’s not looking good and the fire brigade are in there having a look.
“Without Walkabout the street will be gone because it’s a big draw for the area.”
Fire crews used aerial ladders to fight the flames from above the building
Julian Williams, from Lancashire Fire and Rescue, said: “More than 35 firefighters used breathing apparatus to tackle the fire and the damage is quite considerable in the building, but our main priority was to prevent it getting any worse.”
Onlookers watch scene in horror
Hundreds of onlookers watched in horror as more than 70 firefighters from across Lancashire tackled the blaze.
Fire crews took to the roof of the bar to smash their way into the attic.
Various aerial ladder platforms were extended to douse the burning building in water.
Smoke could be seen stretching across the town centre as morning commuters were diverted around the incident.
Walkabout is barely a hundred yards from the former Yates’ building which was destroyed in a suspected arson attack in 2009.
Wendy Kinsey, 50, from Handsworth Road, North Shore, said: “ When Yates’s went up that was awful and this brings back bad memories of it. It’s an old building and it’s a shame to see another one on fire. I can’t believe it.”
John Gould, 63, from St Georges Court, Blackpool, said: “It’s very serious and anybody could have been trapped in there. I remember the Yates’s fire and this brings back very bad memories.”
Jim Cooper, 61, a bus driver from Caunce Street, Blackpool, said: “ I noticed it this morning at about 7am when I was on the bus because I saw the smoke and didn’t know whereabouts it was coming from, I thought it was coming from the church but it was only when I came around onto the prom that I saw it. I get used to seeing things like this in Blackpool but this is very big and big enough for all the buses to be diverted around the town centre.”
Scott Jackson, 31, of Lily Street said: “It’s devastating it’s another pub gone.
“We go in when we go out for a quick one and it’s another old building of Blackpool gone.”
Andrew Jefferson, 27, of Lonsdale Road, said: “I go in every now and then, it’s just like when Yates’s burnt down.”
Walkabout, which opened in 2002, was refurbished 18 months ago.
The building was previously Funny Girls.
See how the Gazette broke the news and watch our video from the scene: