6:00am Thursday 8th May 2014
By Alistair Shand
Top-level calls for vigilance have been issued after a suspected arson attack ravaged a Keighley building.
The inferno has sparked fears lives could be lost by people dicing with death in some of the town’s disused properties.
Flames ripped through the roof of the former Rymer Engineering premises in Heber Street on Monday afternoon.
Firefighters from across the district battled for more than an hour to contain the blaze, and crews remained at the scene for much of the day damping down.
Flames could be seen leaping from the building, and a thick, black pall of smoke hung over the town centre.
Investigations into the cause of the fire are continuing, but initial indications are it was started deliberately.
Unused buildings in the town are known to have been targeted by thieves, drug users and youths.
But firefighters’ lives are also being put at risk.
Fire service station manager Andy Clayton, who was the incident commander on Monday, revealed the burning roof collapsed just moments after crew members were withdrawn from the two-storey premises.
“We had two people with breathing apparatus on the first-floor, but decided to bring them out due to the potential risk of the roof coming in – and within about minutes it collapsed,” he said.
“Empty buildings can be dangerous places. In this case, the premises were in quite good condition, but after a period of time, as the structure deteriorates, water gets in and the floors may become wafer thin.
“Anyone entering is putting themselves at risk, but also those who might have to go in and rescue them.
“I would urge people to stay out of disused properties and for owners of such buildings to ensure the structures are secure.”
His plea is echoed by Keighley Central district councillor and Lord Mayor of Bradford, Khadim Hussain.
“Derelict buildings can be very attractive places – particularly to young children – but they are also potentially extremely dangerous,” he said.
“People need to be vigilant and report anything suspicious, but also we have to get the message across, for people’s own safety, that these premises are not play areas.”
The fire service received numerous calls from the public shortly after 2.30pm on Monday alerting it to the blaze.
Crews from Keighley, Haworth, Silsden and Bingley attended, together with a specialist aerial ladder appliance from Bradford.
Several large water jets were used to tackle the flames, and an area of Heber Street was sealed off.
Mr Clayton praised the initial crews to arrive at the scene.
“They acted extremely promptly and professionally, and their actions certainly helped us contain the fire, which started in the roof of the building and was restricted to that area,” he said.
Amongst a number of onlookers who gathered in the street was Steve Houldsworth, business manager at CJ Metals, a scrap metal recycling firm next door to the fire-hit premises.
He said it was the second blaze in little over two years in the same area.
“I wasn’t working on Monday with it being a Bank Holiday, but I got a phone call and came straight down,” he said.
“Our place isn’t affected by the fire, but it is a real shame when these beautiful old buildings go up like that.”
Anyone with information about the blaze, or who may have seen anything suspicious, is asked to contact the police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
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