FLAMES ripped through one of the garages of a major transport firm causing more than £100,000 damage and leaving the owners ‘devastated’.

Blakewater Coaches vehicle repair unit, based in Hamilton Street, Mill Hill, Blackburn, suffered major damage in the fire, which started in the early hours of yesterday, damaging the building and coaches.

Fire crews said the cause of the fire is still unknown.

Transport manager, Alison O’Neil, 40, said: “We just can’t believe what has happened, with £100,000 damage caused to the vehicles alone.

“The building and equipment is ruined, so we have had to send some of our workers home.”

The blaze destroyed two commercial mini buses, and the thick smoke damaged two double-decker buses and one other vehicle.

Fifty square meters of roofing was destroyed.

Blackburn fire station crew manager Dave Hilliard attended, and said it was an ‘extreme hazard’.

He said: “We had to cut through the iron door with a saw because the building was so secure.

“It looks like one vehicle caught fire and the blaze spread to the other.

“Some gas cylinders were among the damage and were an explosive hazard, although we still don’t know the exact cause.”

Mrs O’Neil said: “We all came into work at 7am to find the place destroyed.

“The fire brigade were unable to reach us because the lines were obviously destroyed by the fire. It’s awful. We have had to contact clients to let them know what is happening, although we can still accommodate them. Hopefully we will find out the cause. We are working with Lancashire County Council to ensure that services are still carried out.”

The firm currently has eight coaches at its Blackburn base, and has also offices in Darwen, Burnley, and Rawtenstall.

Blakewater Coach Hire was established in 1991 and provides regular services to schools in the Lancashire area.

The firm’s sister company, Autumn Travel, provides day excursions and coach tours throughout the UK.

A message on the company’s website said: “Thanks to the heroic efforts of the Lancashire Fire Service last night, we are pleased to announce that we are trading as normal.”