FIRE chiefs have condemned arsonists who cost them vital minutes getting to a motorway smash.
It was the second time firebugs had struck at an old ice cream factory in Crewe's West End. This time the blaze was so fierce it sent a massive plume of smoke across the town skyline.
Emergency lines to the fire brigade were jammed with reports from residents worried about flames spreading to nearby streets, preventing reports of other emergencies getting through.
As firefighters were in the thick of the action, fighting flames in the derelict building in Oxford Street, they got the call about a crash on the M6 near Sandbach.
Crewe Fire Station Commander Clive Pickering said: 'The fire was started deliberately by someone who got into the building intent on doing damage.
'It was so serious it needed it needed teams of firefighters from Crewe, Sandbach and Nantwich and three appliances to bring it under control.
'They were at the scene from 5.30 to 8pm on Saturday, delaying arrival at the road incident. Thankfully, there was no one trapped but it just goes to show how the irresponsible actions of arsonists and hoax callers can reduce the level of fire cover, putting other people's lives in danger.'
Flames ripped through the roof and first floor of the building, which is close to shops and businesses in the street as well as homes in Underwood Lane and West Street.
A blaze, caused by children playing with matches, destroyed an old chapel on the same site on July 3. Families had to be evacuated from their homes and a firefighter narrowly escaped death when a wall collapsed.
Underwood Lane resident Jan Wright said: 'The factory building is plagued by gangs of children. They were probably to blame again because they have certainly taken no heed of pleas for them to stay away.
'I couldn't believe it when I looked out of my back door to see flames there again. Who knows what they will get up to during the school holiday?'
The factory's former owner, who asked not to be named, sold up in December. It is believed to be earmarked for development by a company from Manchester.
He said: 'When our ice cream business went into liquidation we had to sell, but emptied the place before we went. It's not our fault children are now getting in to cause havoc.'