When Boots in Blackpool town centre went up in flames

One of the most serious fires in Blackpool’s history happened 85 years ago.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Friday, 19th November 2021, 9:39 am

And it was one of the most tragic and poignant.

For it claimed the life of a young firefighter who had just returned to duty the day before after his honeymoon.

The body of Ray Laycock, who was 35, was found hours later in the cellar of the Boots Building between Market Street and Corporation Street.

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The earlier stages of the fire when there was still hope of saving the block of buildings. The flames are seen catching the sun blinds on Market Street

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He had been carrying a hose to the sea of the blaze when he was overcome.

Big crowds watched as flames rapidly took hold of the large building next to Blackpool Town Hall.

There were municipal offices above the groundfloor shop area and many valuable records were destroyed.

The scene as Boots was reduced to rubble following the blaze in 1936

The blaze started in the Boots photographic department in the basement which was packed with inflammable chemicals and celluloid film.

Firemen worked through the night buit the building was a left a smoking shell. The heat had killed fish and rabbits in neighbouring buildings.

Fire chief Tom Varley said: “The firemen were often working under very great danger and difficulty.”

He escaped death by inches the following day when part of a wall collapsed into West Street.

Firemen using breathing apparatus at the fire at Boots