AN entire row of shops in Westhoughton has been wiped out in a huge fire that destroyed six businesses.
Shops in School Street, next to St Bartholomew’s CE School, are closed today as an investigation got underway into the cause of the blaze, which broke out just before 10pm last night.
The fire started on the first floor and destroyed the roof of several shops, which are close to the junction of Market Street.
More than 20 firefighters, including those using an aerial platform, tackled the fire at its height, while trying to limit the damage to businesses by salvaging and protecting equipment.
The owners of AK Embroidery are among those affected by the fire.
It was opened five years ago and has proved popular with locals.
Co-owner Alison Harlick, who opened the business with Kelly Foster, said: “I am just in shock at the moment.
“I am not allowed to go in to see the damage and see where we stand with insurance. We will know more in the next few days.
“We all received a phone call during the night about the fire and I just feel awful.”
Other shops on the precinct include a pole fitness studio, body fitness, beauty salon with the banner opening soon, printers, dry cleaners and a gift shop.
- LIVE: 22 dead after suspected suicide bomber attacks Manchester Arena
- UPDATE/ PICTURES: 22 people dead after terrorist incident at Manchester Arena
- Brothers jailed for 'sustained attack' on nightclub reveller that left him with 7 stab wounds
- Level nightclub stabbing - Doorman helped save victim's life
- Multi-million pound Horwich Loco Works development thrown into uncertainty
The pole fitness studio was started by entrepreneur and fitness fanatic Jess Leanne Norris, who sparked controversy when she opened a pole dancing business in her parents’ living room.
Fortunately Barty’s Kids Club was not affected by the blaze and was open as usual.
Firefighters from Atherton, Bolton Central, Hindley, Farnworth, Leigh and Eccles, who tackled the blaze last night, said the roof was well alight when they arrived, but they worked hard to stop the fire from spreading.
Watch Manager Ian Gardner, from Atherton fire station, said: “The building has been extensively damaged in the blaze.
"When we arrived we could see flames coming through the roof.
“We had to cordon off the roads nearby as it is a busy junction and we had the dangerous building inspector at the scene last night.”
The incident was scaled down in the early hours and crews left the scene at about 9am today.
Watch manager David Campbell, from Eccles Fire Station, added: "We've been helping some of the shop owners recover items and stock, and we've been assisting them with business continuity.
"The fire has affected about six businesses — some are more affected then others — but luckily the buildings were unoccupied when the fire started on Sunday night.
"We worked hard to get the surrounding roads re-opened as soon as possible with it being a Monday morning."
Cllr David Wilkinson said: “Some of the businesses, like Torque, have only been open for a few weeks. For a fire to affect so many businesses is just terrible.”
The premises have been declared safe, but the cause of the fire is being investigated.
Landlord Lee Bevan said his team had cleared up the roof slates off the pavement so the footpath could reopen and he was working to get the businesses back open.
He said: “The businesses downstairs are water damaged and the fire damage is to the roof area.
“The building is safe and we are now working to get the businesses open as soon as possible.
“The dry cleaners have other premises so will be able to carry on their business there and the beauty and tanning place’s opening will be delayed.
“The printing business is managed by my wife so we can manage that.
“I know these people and it's about getting them back in so they can open.”
Mr Bevan praised the firefighters' efforts in helping to save the businesses during the incident.
- In the winter of 1990 a massive blaze ripped through Westhoughton Parish Church, which is across the road from the shops.
The fire started in the vestry and tore through the church within minutes - at its height 80 firefighters were at the scene.