Teenage arsonists set fire to a Chorley landmark after breaking into the disused building.
Emergency services, including two fire engines and 10 firefighters, were called to the former QS Fashions site after a PCSO heard an explosion inside.
Officers believe youths, one as young as 12, had made a bonfire in the empty superstore using paper and rubbish. They had then thrown aerosols on to it to fuel the flames.
And, fire chiefs said it is only down to the actions of the PCSOs, that the fire didn’t have chance to take hold and engulf the whole building.
A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue said: “We received reports of an explosion inside the empty QS Fashions store, in Pall Mall, Chorley.
“The building is derelict and it is believed a fire had been started deliberately using paper and rubbish that had been left inside. The fire had created a lot of smoke, but thanks to the early 999 call, crews from Chorley and Leyland were quickly on the scene and it didn’t escalate into a major fire.
“However, if the crews hadn’t received the emergency call it could have been a lot different and there may have been huge repercussions for the building and the properties and businesses surrounding it.
“We deplore the actions of the people who could do something like this.
“Not only would they have destroyed the property, but they put lives at risk too, not least the firefighters who would have had to tackle the blaze.”
The PCSOs had been patrolling the area after the issue of youths vandalising the building and breaking in was raised as a concern at a PACT meeting with residents.
Sgt Kevin Mountain, from Chorley Neighbourhood Police, said: “We have had problems with kids breaking into the building and playing inside. It is obviously very dangerous as the building is unsafe and is derelict.
“The PCSOs had been on patrol when they found the kids trying to start a bonfire using paper and aerosols.
“The officer had heard an explosion inside and saw youngsters running away from the scene. They chased after them and rang the fire brigade.”
Sgt Mountain added: “If the fire had taken hold this could be a completely different situation. It is important that the youngsters know how dangerous it is to go in to the building as there are a number of hidden dangers. They have to stay away.
“It’s also important that parents know where their children are playing and teach their youngsters about how dangerous buildings like this are.”
Asda, which is set to demolish the QS site to make way for a new superstore on the Pall Mall land, is not due to start work until the end of the year.
A spokesman said: “Asda is aware that there are some security issues on the site and is working with the police and the council to make sure the site is as secure as possible.
“Development work will be starting on site towards the latter part of the year.”
- A 14-year-old boy has been charged with arson with intent to endanger life, and is due to appear before Chorley Youth Court on February 14.