A BLAZE which destroyed more than 100 cars in a scrapyard is believed to have been started deliberately.

It was the second time in four months that First Choice Car Spares yard in Altham was engulfed in flames after a suspected arson attack.

A total of 120 cars, which were largely complete with all parts still fitted, were gutted by the fire.

Police and the fire service said they suspect someone entered the compound through a fence at the back.

It is believed it was weakened when arsonists forced their way through it during the first attack in December.

Smoke could be seen billowing from the site by drivers on the M65 as fire crews from across East Lancashire fought the flames for around four hours on Sunday.

Cllr Miles Parkinson, leader of Hyndburn Borough Council, said: “We do not want to see deliberate fires started.

“They are a major cost to business and public services.

“It is very time consuming for the fire service to deal with these incidents and takes them away from dealing with real emergencies.

“I’m not saying this wasn’t a real emergency but it could’ve been stopped. If anyone saw anything I would urge them to report it.”

No injuries were reported and investigations are ongoing into the cause of the blaze in the Moorfield Industrial Estate, which began at around 4pm.

A total of 100 vehicles were removed from the scrapyard in December when more than 60 firefighters fought a blaze for more than a day.

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said: “It’s hard to draw any conclusions about what exactly caused the fire at this stage.

“But it is very concerning now that there have been two of them and the police and fire service are treating it with suspicion.

“It’s going to be a huge financial burden on the company.”

Firefighters jetted water onto the fire and ensured that run-off water did not enter water courses and pollute them.

People living nearby were advised to stay clear of the area and shut windows and doors if smoke was reaching them.

A Lancashire Fire and Rescue spokesman: “There will be a greater cost to the business we think this time because the cars we mostly complete.

“Last time they were just shells really.

“The fire was out at 7.30pm but firefighters remained at the incident to seek out and extinguish any remaining pockets of fire.

“The final count was 120 scrap cars destroyed.

“Last time there was a fence at the back that was down and it was still weak.

“We think someone has got through again on this occasion.

“The fire is being treated as deliberate.”

A police spokesman said: “We were called at around 4.20pm by the fire service to First Choice Car Spares in Altham.

“It appears someone got through the back of the compound via a public footpath.

“We are now liaising with the fire service to discover the cause.”

Anyone who saw anything is being urged to contact police on 101 quoting log reference 1065 of Sunday, April 9.