One of Lancashire’s best-loved country pubs has been severely damaged by an early morning blaze.
Fire crews were called to the Dressers Arms in Wheelton near Chorley shortly before 6am on Thursday and found the premises well alight.
A Chinese restaurant was also severely damaged in the blaze, the cause of which has not been confirmed.
Dave Catterall, co-owner of Little Hong Kong, said: “It was a great Easter for us and we’ve been trading excellently.
“Business is probably the best it has ever been. We don’t know what caused the fire and we will to see what the fire officers say.”
Ian Grundy, a resident evacuated from Briers Brow, said: “I heard a knock on my window about 5.30am and it was somebody from the ambulance service saying I must get out.
“I came outside and the fire didn’t seem to bad then it after a few minutes it just went up.”
More than 50 officers were in attendance at the scene, and investigations are expected to last into the day.
A senior fire officer at the scene said: “This is a very severe fire. The roof has collapsed and there is heavy damage to the pub.
“It has been a very problematic fire to tackle, but our crews have done a very good job preventing it from spreading to adjoining properties.”
Firefighters used breathing apparatus to fight the blaze from inside the building in an attempt to stop it engulfing adjacent cottages and the Little Hong Kong oriental restaurant which occupies the same site.
A crew from Preston also fought the fire from an aerial ladder. Water was being pumped from the Leeds-Liverpool canal almost half a mile away. But flames were still belching out of the front of the pub almost two hours after the alarm was raised.
The senior officer added: “Our crews will probably be here for most of the day. Fire investigators will begin their work later this afternoon and could be here tomorrow as well.
“It is a devastating fire. This is a very popular pub and the impact on the local community will be severe.”