A BUSINESSMAN in Blackrod is counting the cost of a huge fire which destroyed a quarter of his stock of wooden pallets.

Alpha Recycling's yard in Scot Lane went up in flames at about 8am today.

Firefighters spent about six hours at the scene, battling the flames before damping the scene down.

The blaze tore through an area of the yard, destroying hundreds of pallets, which amounted to about a quarter of the business' stock.

Owner John Knowles said the stock destroyed would carry a "high value", and said he was still to assess what impact the damage will have on business.

A fire service spokesman said it was too early to say how the fire had started, and they will be returning to the scene tomorrow.

Mr Knowles said: "About a quarter of my stock has gone but it could have been a lot worse.

"Two of the lads came in and found it and it was already well underway. They then rang the fire brigade.

"I don't know what impact this will have at the moment really. Depends how many pallets we have lost.

"We will be speaking to a lot of people tomorrow, and I'm sure the orders will start coming in as normal.

"We are just glad that nobody was injured because it could easily have gone that way."

The pallets were stacked against each other in huge piles within an area measuring about 40x40 metres.

The fire was said to have spread with the help of strong winds, which also blew huge plumes of smoke over neighbouring farmland.

Several trees at the back of the yard were destroyed as well, while the blaze spread to a metal container used to store PVC reels.

Nearby residents were advised to keep their windows closed because of the smoke.

At the height of the incident, crews from Hindley, Wigan, Horwich, Atherton and Bury fire stations were tackling the blaze.

Paul Sumner, station manager at Hindley, said: "There was a large quantity of pallets involved in the fire and the initial crew who attended worked hard in quite arduous conditions to surround it.

"It is now under control and the firefighters are now turning it over and digging it out to make sure it is completely extinguished."