FOUR blazes were started in Accrington today in an arson spree which spread to a mosque.

Four blazes were lit within a 200-metre radius of the Spring Hill Community Centre in Accrington during the early hours of this morning.

Firefighters tackled the most serious fire at the Faizane Madina Mosque in Richmond Road after flames from a nearby shed containing three gas cylinders spread.

Dozens of firefighters from Great Harwood and Haslingden raced to the scene at just before 3.30am as crews from Accrington Fire Station were busy fighting another arson blaze in Fairfield Street.

The fire began to spread to the place of worship as crews fought to keep the propane gas cylinders cool with jets of water.

Crews remained at the scene for more than four hours battling the blaze and the people living closest to the mosque had to be evacuated from their home.

And as firefighters began to breathe a 'sigh of relief', believing they had the situation under control, a mains gas pipe leading to the mosque ruptured.

Engineers from the National Grid were called to the area and it was cordoned off immediately as they tried to bring the leak under control.

The mosque suffered damage to its wall, roof and windows.

Nabeela Kashif, who lives next door, said she saw black smoke pouring in through her bathroom window.

The 40-year-old, who was evacuated with her husband, Kashif, 39, and their five-year-old son, Ibrahim, said: "I woke up after I heard a noise and when I looked out of the window we saw a huge fire.

"It was a really scary experience and the firefighters told us all to leave the house.”

Katherine Evans was asleep when her shed was set alight at just after 3am.

The 53-year-old nurse at Calderstones Hospital awoke to find the charred remains of the shed in her back yard.

Ms Evans, who has lived in the area for 11 years, said: "The shed had all my paperwork in it and some electrical goods.

"It is unbelievable that someone would go around doing this deliberately and even more astonishing that they would do it so many times.

"I have been left with no power in the house as the blaze burnt through some of the power lines.”

Blazes were also started in two wheelie bins in nearby Exchange Street and Pendle Street.

Fire crew manager, Gary Drinkwater, said: "These fires are endangering lives and are a drain on our resources.”