ONE of the main roads into Accrington is closed this morning after a major fire in the town last night.

At least four derelict terraced properties in Blackburn Road suffered severe damage in what fire chiefs described as a deliberate arson attack which started at 8pm.

The empty Kit’s off-licence was also damaged as six crews battled to contain the flames.

Watch manager Gary Hargreaves said the seat of the fire was in one of the mid-terrace properties and that it had spread through the roof space along the row.

He said there were signs of forced entry which suggested the fire was ‘suspicious’.

This morning the section of the road, between Henry Street in Church and Russia Street, Accrington, remains closed as checks on the properties are carried out.

Last night a mobile fire station, aerial ladder platform and six pumps from across East Lancashire were called.

After two hours, the response was scaled back to three pumps.

Blackburn Road was closed by the police at its junction with Park Road for a distance of around 200m for several hours as burned out slates slid from the roofs of the houses into the street.

Smoke was visibly rising above the town centre skyline and residents had gathered to watch the operation.

Mr Hargreaves said: “We received a number of calls from people who must have spotted the smoke.

“When we arrived the first floor and roofspace of the houses were well alight.

"It looks like that is where the fire has originated from, but that is still being investigated.

“The major challenge was that our access was limited because all the houses are empty.

"We had to fight it from outside.

“From what we could tell, entry had been forced and that is why we are treating it as suspicious.

“There will be a joint police and fire investigation into where the seat of the fire was and the surrounding CCTV cameras will be checked to see if there’s any evidence.”

The damping down at the scene continued into the early hours of this morning.

A police spokesman confirmed nobody was in the buildings and no surrounding properties needed to be evacuated.