MAD Friday has lived up to its billing in Bolton tonight with a fire above one nightclub – and another closed down by police.

But only three people had been arrested by midnight as outbreaks of disorder in the town were few and far between.

The fire broke out in the front fascia board of En-Vogue in Bradshawgate at about 10.30pm after electrics inside the lit-up sign caught alight.

Police moved swiftly to evacuate the club and adjoining businesses, with tape set up to cordon the area off.

Nobody was injured after the club's fire alarm sounded and door and bar staff quickly started an evacuation.

Firefighters said the blaze was well alight when they got there but was not clearly visible due to the flames being inside the fascia board.

They pulled off the timber panelling and used electric saws and axes to create a gap in the board before using a ladder and hose reels to extinguish the blaze from the outside.  

The building, and two unoccupied flats above it, were left heavily smoke-logged and firefighters used a ventilation fan to get rid of the smoke.

All revellers and staff in En-Vogue and people in other premises, including the neighbouring unit occupied by Bolton Street Angels, were safely evacuated by police.

Thousands of revellers had descended on Bolton on the last Friday night before Christmas.

Police had flooded the town centre in anticipation of trouble, with up to 24 officers supported by a Tactical Aid Unit and mounted officers.

Fire service watch manager Tony McKenna said: "The fire has been caused by electrical short-circuiting.

"We don't actually think the damage is that bad – it is confined to the front timber fascia board at the first floor level, which goes over the front of the bar.

“There was heavy smoke-logging to the unoccupied first and second floor flats.

"It is an unoccupied flat above the club and the owner is on his way back now.

"When we got here there was quite a well-developed fire right in the timber of the structure.

"What we did was use two nine-metre ladders to extinguish it from outside.

"This was very close to being a fully fledged building fire but luckily crews were able to deal with it.

"The police have done a great job for us in closing the road."

Relief crews from Bolton Central and Farnworth were deployed to the blaze, where they remained until leaving the scene at 3.10am.  

Bradshawgate was closed to traffic for several hours. Because there was a risk of electric shock, an electrician from North West Electricity was called to the scene to ensure the electrics were isolated.

Earlier police licensing officers shut The Karaoke Bar in Bradshawgate due to problems with its license. They will be shut for at least the next 28 days while they seek to renew it.

And early arrests were made after fights outside The Swan and Downtown Bolton, with three people detained in total.

A section 35 order dispersal order was used by police after one of the fights to clear people out of the town centre.

Police continued to patrol the town centre until about 6am.