A COMPANY is facing a £100,000 repair bill after mystery firebugs sparked a blaze which ripped through a Widnes industrial site and threatened to spread to surrounding businesses.
Firefighters from Widnes were already battling a huge fire in Warrington when reports started flooding in from worried members of the public and security guards who spotted a huge stack of burning pallets on the site of PEC Pallets on Everite Road, Ditton.
John Salt, commander of Widnes fire station, slammed the culprits behind the blaze for creating a major public hazard and said the fire brigade was treating the incident as 'serious arson' and would be working closely with the police to track down the offenders responsible.
He told the Weekly News that local fire service resources were 'extremely burdened' by the incident and the control room was forced to handle more than 50 calls from the public, while also dealing with the emergency in Warrington.
Two fire engines from Runcorn were first on the scene, just before 6pm on Sunday, but more appliances were mobilised from Frodsham and Stockton Heath, near Warrington, as the extent of the fire became clear.
Officers estimated the huge burning pallet stack to have a base area of more than 100 sq metres and their work was hampered by low water pressure which caused difficulties with the water jets used to douse the flames.
Fire crews tackled the blaze until 2.52am on Monday and crews were still damping down the fire until mid morning.
Mr Salt said: 'We are regarding this incident as serious arson attack and we will be working closely with the company and the police to find those who caused the damage.
'More than £100,000 worth of damage has been caused by this incident. However, on this occasion no injuries occurred to either members of the public or firefighters.
'If companies need assistance in reducing the potential for arson then they should get in touch with the fire station.'
The PEC fire is the latest in a string of malicious arson attacks on businesses, schools and homes across Widnes. Earlier this year Mr Salt issued an grave warning to arsonists that it was only a matter of time before someone was killed or seriously injured in a fire started 'for kicks'.
Just last week we reported how police were hunting arsonists who torched a huge mound of more than 100 car tyres on the West bank Dock Industrial Estate which caused traffic chaos on the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge and almost resulted in the evacuation of nearby businesses.
And a fire at the end of June which reduced a new extension at Wade Deacon High School to smoldering ruins was also started maliciously.
He added: 'At the same time as this large fire in Widnes, we had to deal with another large fire at Warrington. The two incidents combined plus all the calls to the centre put an extreme burden on our service and, although we could still guarantee the safety of the public and that we would respond to other incidents during fire, our resources were stretched.'
A Cheshire police spokesman said: 'The fire service rang us at about 6.02pm requesting our assistance. The fire was large and virtually all the pallets on the site were damaged.
'We closed the roads in the vicinity of the incident, although there was some difficulty with sightseers, mainly children. The roads were reopened to traffic at 9pm.'
PEC Pallets declined to comment on the incident.