Police arrest teenager over huge fire at old office building
A13-YEAR-OLD boy was arrested after a huge fire roared in Skelmersdale and destroyed a former office building.
The huge fire devastated the disused Co-operative Bank building at High Street and Westgate with flames seen across West Lancashire and beyond.
Roads were closed and residents and onlookers ordered to head inside and close windows and doors as the asbestos-filled building was gutted by the blaze on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday morning, the true scale of the damage was revealed with little but a battered and bent frame left where the offices once stood proud. The building has been empty for several years but is the subject of a planning application which would see it demolished to make way for an Aldi supermarket.
That application is yet to be decided by West Lancashire Borough Council but faces opposition from the Concourse Shopping Centre owners as well as Lidl and St Modwens who are working together on plans to create the new town centre.
The Co-operative Group, which is run separately to the bank business which plans to sell the land to Aldi, has also objected due to the close proximity of the planned store to its own shop.
Firefighters remained at the scene through the night and the following morning damping down the remainder of the fire and carrying out investigations as part of joint enquiries with Lancashire Constabulary.
Police say that arsonists entered the building to start the fire before running away, while a spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said that the significant damage had already occurred before crews could arrive.
Last night, a 13-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of starting the blaze and the teenager remains in custody today.
A police spokesman said: “We were called at around 7.50pm on Tuesday to reports of a fire at an abandoned building on Westgate, Skelmersdale.
“We attended and found offenders had entered the building and set it alight before making off.
“A short time later we arrested a 13-year-old boy from Skelmersdale on suspicion of criminal damage – arson not endangering life. He remains in custody.
“Our enquiries are very much ongoing and anybody with information is asked to get in touch on 101, quoting log number 1307 of September 15.”
An LFRS spokesman said: “We were called at 7.42pm, initially sent four engines and then it quickly went up to eight
“Crews came from Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside.
“It was a derelict building and it was spread throughout the large building.”
The huge blaze at the disused Co-operative Bank building at High Street and Westgate in Skelmersdale
A firefighter tackles the huge blaze
Fire fighters at the scene and (right) Carnegie Road cordoned off