MORE than 20 people were evacuated from their homes as a huge fire ripped through an office block.

The blaze broke out in the three-storey structure in Stump Lane, Chorley, at 12.50am this morning, with the top two floors well alight by the time firefighters arrived.

Residents from Arley Street, whose homes are just yards from the building, were evacuated to the safety of the nearby Swan With Two Necks pub, amid fears for the structural safety of the block.

The fire was eventually brought under control after around four hours.

However, the building – split into several smaller units and offices – is so badly dam-aged that it could be demolished today, fire-fighters said.

David Riley, 23 who lives with partner Claire Sweeney in Arley Street, was awoken by police banging on his door just before 1am.

He said: “The we heard the police outside and soon realised the situation was serious across the road.

“We have a son and daughter both aged under-two so our first thoughts were to get the children out to safety.

“We managed to stay at relatives but it was a huge shock.

“I was allowed back in for a few minutes in the afternoon to get some belongings and noticed the heat had cracked our front windows, so they are being boarded up.

“Hopefully we’ll be allow-ed back home later this week.”

Police and an emergency officer from the county council helped residents, many of whom spent up to three hours at the Swan With Two Necks.

Nick Hogan, from the pub, said: “Our staff volunteered to stay on to make those who had to leave their homes comfortable and provide refreshments.

“I was very impressed with the way police and the council handled this, mak-ing sure everybody had somewhere to go, and dealing with issues like ensuring an elderly lady had her medication.

“The last person left here at about 4am.

“The whole of the sky towards the east of Chorley was lit up and it was plain to see this was a very intense fire.”

Police said they had begun an investigation into the cause of the blaze.