A SPRINKLER system could have saved a company around £2million after a blaze was prevented from tearing through a building, fire chiefs have claimed.

More than 30 firefighters spent hours tackling the blaze at Atherton Holme Mill, Baldwin Street, Stacksteads, on Friday, after being called to the incident at around 10.30pm.

And chief fire officer for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, Peter Holland, said the situation could have been much worse if the building had not been fitted with a sprinkler system.

He said: “Sprinklers represent the most effective means to suppress fires in commercial buildings. An automatic sprinkler system will contain a fire at the source, keeping damage and subsequent disruption to an absolute minimum.

“Moreover, by extinguishing a fire in its early stages, firefighters lives are not put at risk, whilst less damage is caused to the environment.

“The fire at Atherton Holme Mill would have destroyed approximately £2 million of stock and people could have lost their jobs had an automatic sprinkler system not been installed.”

Mr Holland said the sprinkler system meant the building did not suffer the same fate as Woodfield Mill, Trafalgar Street, Burnley, which was destroyed during a blaze last November. That building had no sprinkler system.

Atherton Holme Mill is the base for Bacup Shoes and company bosses said the efforts of firefighters had meant there was only minimal damage to the fourth floor.

Steven Smith, joint managing director of Bacup Shoes, said: “It appears that fire started because an extension cable had not been fully folded out.

“Thankfully, the sprinkler system kicked in and the fire brigade were incredibly efficient and so well organised that they made the building safe very quickly.

“There has been no real major damage to the building.

“We are so relieved that it was contained very quickly. It won’t affect the business.”

Bacup Shoes employs around 80 people.