10.45pm update: Fire destroys laundry in centre of Blackpool

Elite Linen services on fire, Ball Street,  Blackpool' Picture courtesy of Andrew Colbeck on Facebook
Elite Linen services on fire, Ball Street, Blackpool' Picture courtesy of Andrew Colbeck on Facebook
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Specialist fire officers are tomorrow morning expected to resume an investigation into a major blaze.

Residents living in around 30 homes close to Elite Linen in Ball Street, South Shore, were evacuated after a fireball tore through the industrial laundry firm shortly after 7.15pm this evening.

The smoke could be seen as far away as Fleetwood and even Southport.

Police closed several streets, including part of nearby Lytham Road, as dozens of firefighters from across Lancashire tackled the 50ft high flames. And swarms of passers-by gathered as crews manning six fire engines – plus an aerial ladder platform – battled the fierce fire, which left the dry cleaning business little more than a charred shell.

Watch manager Steve Boyne, from Blackpool fire station, said: “The building will be demolished in the medium-term because of the destruction.

“We have no idea about the cause yet, that will be under investigation.”

The aerial ladder in operation

The aerial ladder in operation

Nobody was hurt in the fire, which also left a number of nearby properties without power last night.

There was initial concern chemicals kept in the premises, such as industrial dyes and bleach, could have gone up in flames, alongside kerosene used for a boiler, but they were ‘largely unaffected’, Mr Boyne said.

Theatre student Kyle Murphy, 20, said he was in his Duke Street house when he spotted the drama unfold through his living room window.

“I was just about to get up and make some food,” he said from behind the police cordon on Lytham Road, close to the junction with Alexandra Road.

The smoke over Blackpool. Pic courtesy of @damematti on twitter

The smoke over Blackpool. Pic courtesy of @damematti on twitter

“I went into the kitchen and went back to get my phone and saw smoke through the window.

“Within seconds, police officers on foot knocked on my door.

“At first they just moved us to the end of the road, but within 10 minutes they moved us here.”

Another neighbour, who said she worked at Elite until around six months ago, said she was making coffee when she heard a bang at the door.

The aerial platform being extended

The aerial platform being extended

She added: “The police knocked and said we need to get out quickly. We are just out on the street, and we don’t know when we can go home.”

Matthew Swallow, 20, added: “You could see the big plume of black smoke from my garden. I came down and you could hear large bangs coming from the fire. The flames were higher than the buildings.”

And Jimmy Bell, 52, was watching the flames from the south end of the police cordon on Lytham Road.

He said: “I was in the pub just up there and someone came out and said a factory was up in smoke.

“The smoke and flames were ferocious, you imagine with it being a linen factory it wouldn’t have been the easiest to put out but the firefighters were on it within minutes and brought it under control.”

Around 50 999 calls were made to the fire service, with crews from as far away as Blackburn - in the resort for a training exercise at the old Parkwood mental health unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital – diverted to battle the blaze.

Paramedics were also called out, but were ultimately not needed, while council workers and engineers from Electricity North West were also there to isolate the power supply.

The fire was ’99 per cent out’ by 10pm yesterday, Mr Boyne added, though two crews were expected to remain at the scene throughout the night to dampen down the badly damaged building.

Blackpool Council opened Palatine Leisure Centre in St Anne’s Road as a refuge for affected residents, who were asked to make themselves known to officers manning the extensive cordon.

Ball Street, Duke Street, and a section of Lytham Road remained closed at the time of going to print, with Blackpool Transport warning passengers its number 11 bus service would be diverted until the end of service.

Mr Boyne praised residents for getting out their homes quickly, and for their patience.

He also thanked crews, some of whom obliged requests from a group of young lads for a handshake over the police tape in Lytham Road, for their hard work.