Residents trapped in homes as firebugs torch rubbish

Arson scene:  The walkway where yobs set fire to the rubbish, trapping residents in their homes
Arson scene: The walkway where yobs set fire to the rubbish, trapping residents in their homes
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Arsonists left residents trapped inside their homes after torching a pile of rubbish outside a block of flats.

Firefighters today said it was only the quick actions of crews in extinguishing the flames which prevented a serious incident after yobs burned the rubbish in the communal walkway on the ground floor of the flats in Laycock Gate, Blackpool.

The incident, today described as a “significant fire”, happened at around 4.45pm on Friday.

Police and firefighters have now launched an investigation. The fire is being treated as suspicious.

Several residents in the block of flats were treated for smoke inhalation. No one was seriously injured.

But one resident today described the scene as “chaotic”.

And Mark Winder, watch manager for Forest Gate fire station, said the fire was a “reckless act”.

He added: “It was quite a significant fire that meant people were trapped from leaving their flats.

“Due to the severity of the smoke, four pumps were needed to extinguish the fire.

“Certainly the amount of smoke had the potential to cause harm to anyone that would have tried to exit their flats. The fascia boards had started to catch fire and that could have easily travelled through the roof.

“No rescues were required as the fire was put out before it became out of 
control.”

The fire was started at the bottom of a communal walkway, near a storage area for rubbish and immediately next to two homes.

Residents in the flats immediately next to the fire today said they did not wish to speak about the incident.

But other neighbours in the block, where several properties are boarded up, described the moment fire crews arrived on the scene.

One resident who lives opposite where the blaze started, but did not want to be named, said it was a “chaotic” scene.

He added: “I looked out my window and saw a mass of smoke – it was pretty chaotic.

“It looked fairly serious but the firefighters seemed to have everything under control soon enough.

“If it was deliberate then I can imagine it being kids.”

Paramedics were called to the scene and several people were tested for smoke inhalation as a precaution, but no one required hospital treatment.

Mr Winder added: “Investigations are continuing to

determine the cause but we are leaning towards the belief that the fire was carried out deliberately.”

Det Sgt Stuart Reid, of Blackpool CID, said: “Investigations are on-going and no suspects have been identified in connection with the fire.

“We are treating the fire as suspicious and detectives will be at the scene today to try find the cause of the fire.”

The incident comes after The Gazette reported earlier this year how deliberately started fire are still a major concern for fire chiefs in Blackpool.

Official figures show there were 499 deliberately started fires on the Fylde coast in 2013.

More than 80 of those were classed as serious fires – 60 of them in Blackpool.

A third of all fires in Lancashire – more than 3,200–- are arson, yet less than a quarter are ever solved.

Among the other serious incidents in Blackpool in the last 12 months is an arson attack at the former Pit Stop premises in Bloomfield Road, which has now been targeted twice.

And earlier this month a mother told how she feared she was going to be killed after yobs torched a moped and pushed it against the front door of her home in Milbourne Street, central Blackpool.