“At one point flames were leaping 100ft into the dark sky and the whole of the centre of Blackpool was bathed in a lurid glow.”
These archive photographs, some taken from the roof of the Evening Gazette building, show the aftermath of a devastating blaze which ripped through the Earl’s Court Amusement Arcade, on the corner of Church Street and Temple Street, in February 1944.
The alarm was raised at 3.20am when a policeman on his beat in Temple Street saw the threatening glow of the fire through a window. Within just one minute, five fire engines swung into position around the blazing building.
The fire had started in the first floor canteen of the three-storey building and rapidly spread to the top floor.
At the height of the blaze, reinforcements were summoned and 100 firemen were fighting the flames inside and outside the building – with 15 engines in action.
At one point, it was – The Gazette reported – “feared the whole block of property might be lost, and the damage might have exceeded that on the old Boots’ site in 1936”.
The battle with the flames lasted around five hours.
Pumps, escapes, turn-table ladders and salvage tenders were all in action.
Escape ladders shot up and while firemen fought the flames inside the venue, others clambered over the roof of Earl’s Court and nearby buildings to prevent the fire from spreading.
At one point, despite “imminent peril”, three of them were standing on the roof directing their hose towards the flames, which were driving them back foot by foot. All the time the fire was spreading through the rooms below.
A mobile kitchen was in operation – handing out hot drinks and sandwiches to weary firefighters.
It was a lucky escape for nearby residents – including a 66-year-old Mrs Bennett, who lived in a flat above a shoe shop next to Earl’s Court. She was woken by shouts of fire, but found the stairs impassable due to the flames. The firemen helped her and her family out through the window.