Police chiefs today warned people to keep out of a fire-hit hotel which has been a target for intruders.
It took fire crews two-and-a-half hours to control a blaze at the former Ambassador Hotel on the Promenade in North Shore on Wednesday evening.
Investigations are continuing into the cause but the building is currently too dangerous for fire and police officers to enter.
The property, at the junction of Derby Road, has been known to house rough sleepers and has also been a magnet for anti-social behaviour since it closed around five years ago.
Now security is being increased at the building and people are being told to keep out.
Inspector David Wilson, of Blackpool Police, said: “The building now is really unsafe and I would urge people not to go in there.
“The first floor has been completely destroyed.
“The council is putting some extra CCTV cameras up and if we get any calls, we will be responding as quickly as we can.
“If anyone does see anything suspicious, for example someone trying to climb in, they should report it to us.”
Over the past 12 months firefighters have been repeatedly called to the premises after fires have been started.
Enforcement agencies, including the council, have used their powers to force the owner to install metal shutters and a fencing, but this has not deterred intruders.
Inspector Wilson said: “These measures have been breached and following a meeting in October the owner agreed to install metal sheeting which was to have been the next step.
“The building is really dangerous now and we need to decide how to make it safe to stop these really determined people getting in.”
Ward councillor Lynn Williams, who represents Claremont, also urged people to keep out of the building.
She said: “It was dangerous before but following this fire, people have got to stay away. They are risking their own lives and putting the emergency services at risk.
“Thankfully this time there were no injuries or fatalities but this property just isn’t safe.”
She added a long-term solution was required.
Coun Williams said: “We’re aware of a lot of effort by different agencies and the council which has been ongoing since 2015.
“We have every sympathy with neighbouring businesses and residents.
“This property has to be brought into a proper state.”
Adrian Martin, who owns the neighbouring Rutland Hotel, raced back from a town centre restaurant when he heard about the fire.
He said: “We got a phone call and just jumped in a cab and flew back.
“Our hotel is closed for the winter so we didn’t have any guests in, but we have suffered some fire damage to the roof and water damage.
“Since the Ambassador has been empty, we must have called the police more than 50 times due to seeing kids going in there and people emptying it of scrap.
“The homeless also go in when it’s cold.
“I think we have been very lucky there has not been a fatality, but if it’s allowed to go on as it is there is a good chance there will be a fatality.”
Wednesday’s blaze broke out just after 8.30pm with 10 fire engines in attendance at one stage.
The Ambassador Hotel is owned by Victor Sereno, based in Southport.
Before it closed, he had leased it out for someone else to run.
However he said he was now in the process of selling the hotel to a potential developer.
He said: “I have spent a lot of money trying to secure the hotel with steel gates and shutters.
“But these kids are coming along with bolt-cutters to get in, and then putting themselves on the internet.
“The police just give them a warning and aren’t doing anything about it.
“However it is now being sold and we are just waiting to complete the sale.”
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council said they had been working with the police to resolve issues at the Ambassador.
She said: “Enforcement action has been ongoing since 2015 and has included requirements to secure the premises.
“This has been undertaken by the council, the police and the owner on several occasions.
“We also required the owner and leaseholder to complete external works to improve the property which is in a poor condition.
“This had not been completed satisfactorily so we took the matter to court in April of last year which led to formal cautions being issued to both the owner and leaseholder along with their responsibility for court costs.
“Another enforcement notice was again issued to the owner on January 10 to secure the property within 24 hours when it was brought to our attention that it has been accessed illegally.
“Our message is that we are striving to build a better Blackpool for residents and visitors alike and will not tolerate any property owner, leaseholder or landlord who neglect properties or ignore their responsibility to ensure that their premises are adequately maintained and secure.”
On June 4 2015 a notice was issued to secure the premises.
As the premises remained unsecured, the council took direct action to secure it on June 25 2015.
Letters were also sent to the owner and leaseholder to perform external improvement work.
As the works were not satisfactorily completed, a Section 215 Notice was issued on February 8 2016.
This was not complied with and eventually went to court in April 2017 leading to formal cautions.
An enforcement notice was issued at 3pm on Wednesday, just hours before the fire broke out, via email to the owner requiring the property to be secured within 24 hours after the council became aware the property had been accessed illegally.