A HUGE blaze which broke out at a former chemical plant was started deliberately.

Firefighters spent three hours tackling the fire at the former Clariant UK Ltd building, in Nook Lane, Oswaldtwistle.

Three engines attended the scene from 8.10pm and an aerial platform was used.

A hazardous materials and environmental protection unit was also scrabbled because the building contained asbestos.

A spokesman for the fire service said it was definitely a deliberate fire, and an investigation in conjunction with the police was under way.

The plant, formerly the home of Cocker Chemicals before its takeover by Clairant, closed in March, 2006.

A spokesman for the fire service said the asbestos in the roofing was not the most toxic kind, and firefighters on the scene jetted water at it to stop it becoming airborn.

Firefighters said the factory was well alight when they arrived at the scene and officers had prevented residents going down the road, off New Lane, due to the burning cement sheet asbestos.

One firefighter at the scene said: “The cement asbestos roofing was on fire so there was a limit on how near we could get to it.

“The fire caused the roof to fall in.”

Oswaldtwistle councillor Peter Britcliffe said: “You could see the fire from a fair way away.

“There’s always fears when there is a fire at a site like that, but luckily there was very little damage to anything except for the derelict building.”

The site had been used by chemical companies since before the War.

Clariant took over in 2002.

Previous owners Nipa were fined £20,000 in 1998 after a chemical leak which sent a cloud of acidic gases above the plant and forced 2,000 people indoors.

That incident was one of two leaks at the plant in 1998.