AN ELDERLY man is believed to have died when a ‘raging inferno’ reduced his bungalow to a smouldering wreck.

Tests will be carried out to identify the man, who police believe is former college lecturer Christopher Proctor, 88.

Firefighters were called to the property in Pleckgate Road, Blackburn, in the early hours of Saturday after a passerby raised the alarm.

Soyaid Patel, 26, of London Road, said he could see flames in the distance as he was driving home from a friend's house in Revidge.

He said: “I was with a friend on my way home from Revidge. We saw an orange glow in the distance and as we got closer we realised it was a fire.

“We moved towards the fire shouting to see if anyone was inside but there was no answer.

“As we got within a couple of feet the windows blew out.

“By this point, all the roof had collapsed and there was little left of the bungalow. It was too risky to go inside. The whole building was on fire.”

Blackburn councillor Phil Riley, who lives next door to the property, said: “The flames were raging. It was an inferno. The house was well ablaze and all that is left is a shell.

“Christopher had lived there for more than 35 years. He was a nice man, but he was deaf and a bit of a recluse.

“It is a very sad end to what was a long life.”

Another neighbour who saw the incident at 3.45am on Saturday morning said: "We could see the flames rising above the rooftops of the houses opposite.

“It was frightening. We were watching the drama from our window upstairs.

“We saw all the blue flashing lights and the red glow of the fire.”

Neighbours said the 88-year-old linguist lived alone at his Pleckgate Road home for more than 40 years.

Mr Proctor had graduated from Pembroke College, Cambridge, before taking up a teaching post at a school in Accrington.

Between 1958 and his retirement in 1985 he taught at what was then Blackburn Technical College.

Police and fire crews are continuing to investigate the cause of the blaze.

A police spokesman said: “The cause of the fire is currently unexplained but at this time it is believed one person sadly died in the fire.

“While formal identification is yet to be carried out, at this time the person who died is understood to be Christopher Proctor, 88, who lived alone at the address. His family are aware.”

Watch manager Neil Carter, from Blackburn fire station, said: “Initially we did not know whether the gentleman was inside or not.

“The intensity of the fire was too great for us to know a cause of the fire at this stage. The damage is extensive.

“We are carrying out a methodical search of the property with forensic experts.”

A post-mortem was expected to be carried out yesterday (Sunday) to establish the cause of death.