A FIRE that engulfed a scrapyard on an industrial estate in Altham was believed to have been started deliberately, police said.

Around 400 cars were damaged by the flames at a scrapyard on the Moorfield Industrial Estate in the early hours of yesterday.


A huge operation with more than 60 firefighters was in force throughout Wednesday leaving several businesses closed for the day.

Thick plumes of black smoke could be seen across East Lancashire and residents were warned to keep their windows shut.

Employees were able to return to work yesterday while fire crews remained at the site all day.

They will continue to return in the coming days to check it has not reignited.

A police spokesman said: “We can confirm that we believe the origin of the fire to be suspicious and are in the early stages of our investigation into the cause.”

A spokesman for the fire service said the investigation could take several weeks.

He said: “We are working with various people on the investigation.

“One crew remained at the site on Thursday and for the next few days we will be returning every 12 hours to reinspect and make sure there no further pockets have reignited.”

Hundreds of schoolchildren were left unable to catch their regular bus to school because coach company Rigby’s Executive Coaches could not access its depot while two bus companies stepped in to take children to a pantomime in the afternoon.

Andrew Knowles, who runs the company, said they were glad to be back in on Thursday morning but feared a fire in the future.

“It cost us about £5,000 because we could not get onto our site,” he said.

“We have been here for 16 years and there have been no improvements made to the estate.

“We are worried there could be another fire and it might be our garage next time.

“It is an accident waiting to happen. There is not enough safety.”

Paying tribute to the firefighters, he said: “They were superb. They made things a lot easier for us.”

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said it has now finished at the site after testing the water used to put the fire out for contamination.

“The water quality is fine so the EA will be working in the coming days with the fire service to determine the cause of the fire and make sure the site is cleaned up.”