Cause of Blackpool laundry firm inferno ‘under investigation’

A large industrial washing machine is one of only items recognisable after Wednesday's inferno
A large industrial washing machine is one of only items recognisable after Wednesday's inferno
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Charred brick, twisted metal, and the wrecked remains of industrial washing machines – this is the devastation caused by an inferno.

The damage at Elite Linen was so devastating, it was yesterday warned the building could ‘collapse at any moment’. It is expected to be demolished in the near future.

Fire at Elite Linen, Ball Street, South Shore, Photo Marcin Jamorski

Fire at Elite Linen, Ball Street, South Shore, Photo Marcin Jamorski

The cause of Wednesday evening’s fire, which saw 40 firefighters called to Ball Street, off Lytham Road in South Shore, remains under investigation, with officials said to be keeping an open mind.

A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed nobody was hurt and said: “We’re looking into any and every line of enquiry.”

Around 30 homes were evacuated during the blaze, with hundreds of residents and passers-by watching the drama unfold from behind police cordons in Ball Street, Duke Street, and Lytham Road.

A handful took refuge at Palatine Leisure Centre in St Anne’s Road, where the council handed out refreshments, while some decided to stay with a friend or relative for the night.

They were allowed home from around 10.30pm, though 131 properties had their power supply cut. A further 10 lost their gas supply.

Derek Buchanan’s grandmother lives in Duke Street, with her home backing onto Elite Linen’s large building. Heat from the fire left her back windows cracked, he said, while the house also smelled strongly of smoke.

The 22-year-old, who lives across the road, said: “I walked to my mate’s house and saw everybody running. I stepped on the road and I saw flames higher than the roof.

“All the debris was falling. It was like something from a film. The heat was unbelievable.

“I thought the whole place was going to go boom.”

Derek’s mother, Sharon Reid, 39, said a number of those evacuated were disabled or suffered from health problems, and said water handed out to emergency service personnel should have also been shared out amongst residents.

“Bottles turned up for the police but not for anybody else,” she said. “There was no community spirit.”

The fire, which saw the first of 50 999 calls made at 7.17pm, was ‘99 per cent’ out by around 10pm, watch manager Steve Boynes from Blackpool fire station said, and was fully extinguished shortly after 7am yesterday.

Fears it could spread to chemicals stored at the business – such as bleach, dyes, and kerosene for a boiler – turned out to be unfounded because crews were able to contain the blaze.

Firefighters manned an aerial ladder platform (ALP) yesterday to carry out an aerial assessment of the building, while officials from Blackpool Council spent the afternoon deciding if and when it will be pulled down.

And a man identified by neighbours as Wayne Bradley, a boss at Elite Linen, was taken through the police cordon after being met by investigators.

Police tape still stretched across Ball Street, though residents were allowed to get to their homes.

Duke Street and Lytham Road were back to normal, with businesses reeling from the shock.

Alison Morris from Alison’s Quid Bakery, which backs onto Elite Linen, said she felt grateful to be open, having intially being told it was her business ablaze.

Stuck behind the police cordon, she only realised the blaze had actually engulfed nearby Elite via a video on The Gazette’s website.

But because of the fire’s proximity, Alison remained concerned her business had been affected, though firefighters from across Lancashire – some of whom were in the resort for a training exercise – successfully stopped the inferno from spreading.

Alison, who has been open for around a year, said: “At 11pm, one of the fire officers let me in and luckily for me, we were okay. It could have been a lot worse.”

She said around ‘50 to 100’ people worked at the linen company, which is understood to have provided cleaning services for a number of Blackpool hotels, with many of them going there to eat.

Nobody at the business, which also has an office in Manchester, could be reached for a comment yesterday.

Jamie Ogden, 23, is the general manager at The New Albert pub in Lytham Road, opposite Duke Street and Ball Street. He said: “There were people running down the street knocking on doors and getting people out.”

Despite being inside the cordon, the pub was allowed to remain open, though customers were only able to use the side door in Haig Road.

The locally-listed building was not affected by the power cut either.

Electricity North West said engineers cut the supply to 131 ‘to make it safe for the fire service to carry out their important work’.

“Our engineers have been on site throughout the night and restored power to the majority of customers at 1.45am,” it said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with the fantastic local fire service, and we’ll restore power to the remaining 33 customers as soon as the fire service tells us it’s safe to do so.”

Premier Taxis in Lytham Road said it was unable to take calls or mobile phone app bookings for a short amount of time following the fire.

“We had things back up and running soon after,” the firm said on Twitter.

“Inconvenient, yes, but the main thing is there doesn’t seem to be any injuries.”

Gas company Cadent, formerly National Grid, said 10 evacuated homes were affected when the supply to Elite was isolated at the request of firefighters.

Engineers were hopeful of restoring the supply yesterday.

Gordon Marsden, Labour MP for Blackpool South, said his office had made enquiries with both Electricity North West and Cadent about any impact demolition would have. He said: “If there is to be a demolition, and if it means people will be without power and gas for more than a very short period of time, there needs to be alternative facilities. We will be monitoring it carefully.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said officers are involved in the investigation, which he said is in its early stages.