A LARGE fire has broken out at one of Blackburn's oldest town centre buildings.

Eight fire crews were called to the The Bureau Centre for the Arts, in Victoria Street, at around 5.30am.

Parts of Victoria Street, Richmond Terrace and Ainsworth Street have been closed off.

Firefighters are still at the scene putting out the flames at the grade II-listed building.

The fire services' drone was also called to the scene to provide an aerial view of the blaze.

The building started out as The Church of St. John the Evangelist and construction first started in June 1787.

The council-owned centre had a cafe space, a gallery, cinema and community use room, studios, community darkroom and a main space suitable for theatre, workshops, gatherings and events.

The Very Rev Peter Howell-Jones, dean of Blackburn Cathedral, said: "This is absolutely devastating for the town.

"It is one of our iconic buildings and has been a place for many people since it shut as a church in 1975.

"It has had a new life since then.

"I was there this morning as I walk past that way on my way to Blackburn Cathedral.

"There were so many flames leaping out. Some must have been 20 feet tall.

"It's just terrible.

"It is a bad day for the town."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Up to 70 firefighters were called to the scene.

Speaking on behalf of the group which runs The Bureau – Centre for the Arts, Kerris Casey-St Pierre said: "Words cannot describe just how absolutely devastated we all are.

"The bureau is home to an incredible mix of community groups and creative artists and has been built on four years of hard work and passion.

"Today, that same passion and sense of sheer determination is stronger than ever before and while we are all shocked at what has happened, we are absolutely determined to work together to continue the amazing work we do with the community.

"The building may have been wrecked and many of our possessions with it, but we are already starting to look at what can be done and make plans for the upcoming events and exhibitions.

"The building was our home, and while we all loved it so much, we realise that The Bureau is so much more than just a venue – it is a community and this fire will not take that away.

"We would like to thank people for their huge show of support during this incredibly difficult time-we need that now more than ever before."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Chris Archer, watch manager and operations commander for the incident, said: "We were called after reports of a building fire with smoke coming from the tower.

"Entry was difficult due to the building being very secure and having large doors.

"The fire broke through the roof and I requested a further four pumps to add to the four already here.

"I asked for support from our partners - the local authority and the police.

"A second aerial ladder platform from Blackpool was also called in.

"We have got the fire surrounded."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Lancashire Telegraph:

Mr Archer added: "Currently we have stood down a few pumps.

"Road closures are expected to be in place for two hours."

Very sad to see ⁦@BureauBlackburn⁩ on fire this morning. ⁦@BlackburnLife⁩ ⁦@Blackburn_BID@bbcathedral⁩ Just praying now one was hurt ⁦@lancstelegraphpic.twitter.com/iIDzxG2YGN

Bangor Street Community Centre in Norwich Street has said it will assist those who were based in the building.

A community centre spokesman said: "We are saddened to hear of the fire at this iconic building in the heart of Blackburn.

"We understand this must be a very testing time for all involved.

"We are happy to assist volunteers or organisations if they require some space free of charge.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Cllr Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: "I was extremely upset to wake up to the news early this morning that this historic church was on fire.

"While this is devastating for the community and especially those who help run it, I’m just grateful nobody was hurt.

"The council owns the building and we are working closely with the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

"We've received early reports that suggest that the fire started in the café area.

"Initial assessments are that the roof structure and the interior have been significantly damaged, but thankfully the iconic bell tower appears to be less affected.

"There has been a lot excellent community work going on in the church since it was taken over by The Bureau – Centre for the Arts.

"Our priority will be to meet with those involved to discuss the next steps and see how we can support them."

The Al-Khair Foundation, based in the town, have also offered their support to those who use the centre.

Zubair Vali, from the foundation, said: "We want to help and assist these people in any way we can.

"If anyone from the centre needs support they are asked to call 03000 999 786."

A Blackburn BID spokesman tweeted: "What a very sad day for the town, The Bureau, Kerris and all the team at this historic building.

"So much hard work has gone into this project.

"Our hearts go out to everyone involved."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Blackburn with Darwen Council director for adult services and prevention, Sayyed Osman, tweeted: "St John the Evangelist building on fire.

"Lancashire fire on scene.

"Have blaze under control. Key historic building. A real tragedy."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Lancashire Telegraph:

Despite the road closures some businesses are still open.

The Blackburn Bus Company‏ tweeted: "Morning to all our customers, police have reported fire on Victoria Street in Blackburn so our 4, Hotline and 24 will divert via Barbara Castle Way and pick normal route back up at Blackburn college."

Cllr Damian Talbot executive member for leisure and culture, said: "I was down there at the fire and it was a very, very upsetting site.

"The damage to the building is absolutely tragic.

"It is the oldest church building into the town.

"Everyone in Blackburn and those born and bred here will know the building.

"It served as a citizens advice hub for many years.

"I feel sorry for Kerris and everyone who poured their heart and soul into the building.

"It is heart-breaking for everyone involved.

"The only thing we can take from this is thankfully no one was injured."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation and no one was believed to be in the building at the time.