THIEVES are suspected of starting a blaze at a derelict pub after stealing copper pipes from under the floorboards.

The burglars are thought to have set fire to rubbish in an upstairs room of the boarded-up Crescent Hotel in Blackburn after snatching the metalwork on Friday.

Residents reported suspicious activity at the former Thwaites pub in Bank Lane, Intack, to police at around 5.30pm.

Around three hours later, at 8.37pm, firefighters from Blackburn Fire Station were called to tackle a blaze at the pub, which was causing plumes of smoke to billow from the windows.

One room of the building was destroyed by fire and the rest of the building was damaged by smoke.

Firefighter Stephen Horrocks, one of the crew members that fought the blaze for around 90 minutes, said: “Somebody had been trying to steal the copper pipes and lead off the roof.

“Whoever had been in there had smashed their way in through the back door and the floorboards were ripped up and copper was missing.

“The thefts have potentially been going on for a while because there’s lead missing off the slate roof, which they probably got to through the loft.

“There was a pile of rubbish they had set alight in the upstairs bedroom and it was burning well when we got there.”

Residents who live in the area said there was an ongoing problem with anti-social behaviour.

One neighbour said: “You see big gangs of them going in there. Either groups of kids or druggies. It isn’t nice as I have young children and I don’t want them seeing that. You can hear loud bangs when they just start ripping up the place.”