A LARGE fire at a terrace house this afternoon is thought to have started because it was being used as a cannabis factory.

The blaze, which wrecked the roof, also spread to the two neighbouring properties, which had to be evacuated.

Firefighters were called to William Street, Colne, at around 2pm after reports that the blaze had broken out in one of the bedrooms.

Witnesses said the smoke was so intense that it was impossible to see down the street.

Inspector Mick Johnson said: “There is a police investigation ongoing and one of the lines of inquiry is that the house was being used as cannabis farm.

“It does not appear to be suspicious, we are not treating it as an arson, but it would appear that the house was being used for the cultivation of the plant.”

Mark Davison, 39, who lives in William Street, but whose home was not affected, said: “The fire just erupted out of the roof.

“It was a very fierce fire.

“I live across the road and I could see the smoke so I went and was banging on doors.

“People could have been asleep in there and it is the smoke that kills.

“I am just glad it was not any worse than it was.”

Richard Hartley, who lives next door to the house to where the blaze started said it was fortunate he was not in at the time.

The 45-year-old father of five said: “I was out visiting my daughter at the time and the first I knew about it was when Mark came round and knocked on the door telling me he thought my house was on fire.

“We don’t know what the damage is yet, but part of my roof is gone so I won’t be able to go in for a while.

“There will be water damage too, so we will just have to wait and see.”

Kevin Wingfield, 45, who lives in the other neighbouring house and said he would have to find somewhere else to stay.

He said: “I was out with my dog Bongo and came home and saw all the smoke.

“It’s really upsetting but it is fortunate I was out at the time.”

Four fire engines and an aerial ladder platform were at the scene for several hours making sure the blaze was out.

Anybody with information about the blaze is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 .