FIRE ripped through a Blackburn town centre shop after a man doused it in petrol and set it alight yesterday.
Witnesses described how an explosion rocked Almera Polish Shop, Whalley Banks, before flames engulfed the building yesterday.
Owner Farid Abdullaha said the man walked in at about 9.30am and threw petrol at his cousin Ako, who had been minding the shop, before throwing more of the fuel around the store.
Mr Abdullaha said his cousin ran outside to safety before the man set the petrol on fire, but was yesterday being treated at Royal Blackburn Hospital after ingesting some of the fuel that had
landed on his face.
Following the blaze police arrested a 30-year-old man from Blackburn on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.
At its height up to 40 firefighers worked to stop the blaze spreading to neighbouring shops in the terraced block.
Police were also called to the scene and placed a cordon around the site while Whalley Banks was closed both ways and traffic was diverted.
The ambulance service, National Grid and gas suppliers were also on standby.
By midday the fire crews were able to enter the building and began dampening down to ensure all seats of fire were out but the road remained closed.
John Taylor, spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The building has been gutted, the front of the shop was blown out.
“Anything could have happened in the incident. It was a severe fire.”
Mr Abdullaha said he had recently undertaken a £40,000 revamp at the shop.
He said: “I was at home and my cousin was looking after the shop when it happened.
“Nothing is left. I have been here for 10 years and have had no problems.
“I’m angry and upset. What am I going to do now? This is my life, my livelihood.”
Police said they were investigating whether the incident was linked to a disturbance at the shop on Sunday.
Officers confirmed they had been called after a man was abusive at around 6.40pm.
Joanne Woods, manager of Easthams florist, which is next door to the Polish shop, said she called the fire service when she heard a ‘massive explosion.’ She said: “I was just in the back of the
shop then I heard an almighty explosion.
“I walked to the front of my shop and saw the front of next door had been blown off.
“There were three staff in my shop at the time and I told them to get out. There were flames coming out of next door.”
She said the florists would be running from its Whalley New Road branch until the shop could be reopened.
Neil McGregor, 48, from Highercroft, Blackburn, said: “A friend of mine told me that the shop was on fire but I didn’t believe them at first.
“Then I saw all the smoke and I came down to see it.
“It is quite horrific, it’s the worst fire I’ve ever seen.
"It is quite dangerous with the petrol station on the other side. it looks like a violent and vicious fire.”
Les Davies, 33, from Cherry Tree, Blackburn, was driving with his girlfriend Elisa Briggs, 27, when he heard the explosion.
He said: “I was driving past the school and there was a load bang and I saw a massive plume of smoke.
“My girlfriend told me to look at the shop because flames were pouring out of it.”
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