THE fire which wrecked a landmark Burnley mill has dealt a massive blow to the town’s heritage, according to the Civic Society.

Fire and police chiefs have launched a probe after Woodfield Mill, Trafalgar Street, was gutted by a massive blaze.

Yesterday, investigators were picking through the remains of the building as they sought to find out what happened.

The mill, which sat at the heart of Burnley’s historic Weavers’ Triangle of cotton-producing buildings, housed 38 employees of Turkington Engineers. The building was empty when the fire started late on Friday night.

Burnley Civic Society chairman Roger Frost said the 120-year-old mill had at its peak been the workplace of up to 400 cotton workers.

He said: “When it was originally built it was the biggest weaving shed in Burnley.

“When it opened in 1889 the local papers called it the ‘giant mill’ and it was regarded all along as a landmark building.”

The blaze has left the mill ruined, with experts fearing for Burnley’s historic buildings.

“Fifteen to 20 years ago the Weavers’ Triangle was the most complete Victorian landscape in the country,” said Mr Frost.

“But since then we have lost a lot of mills.

“The area has changed a lot and the loss of this building reduces its importance even more.

“It will be sad for some people but not for others. Some want to forget the cotton past of Burnley but it was important for the town.”

Yesterday, as investigators continued their probe, bosses at Billington Road-based Turkington were assessing the situation.

Chief executive Stuart Ashman pledged that Woodfield Mill’s 38 employees would keep their jobs and would be redeployed at other Billington premises.

He added: “We are covered by insurance and we have got full salary cover so they will still be paid as normal.”

Mr Ashman said it was impossible to say whether the company would be able to salvage part of the mill but he said bosses were “hopeful” of doing so.

At its height late on Friday night, more than 100 firefighters and 22 fire engines were involved in battling the blaze.

Nearby homes and businesses were also evacuated.