We feared for our lives in fire ordeal, say Keighley residents

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Scene of the fire Scene of the fire

Residents who were evacuated from their homes in the early hours of New Year’s Eve told of their lucky escapes after 70 firefighters from across the district tackled an inferno in Keighley.

The fire service battled for several hours to stop the blaze, in a three-storey building in the Lawkholme area of the town, spreading to adjacent houses.

A shop unit containing fashion and fabrics, snooker hall and disused industrial area were all within the fire-hit premises, which were severely damaged.

Police evacuated residents from houses close to the scene of the blaze, in Grange Street, as a precaution and the nearby Asda opened its canteen facilities.

Pensioner Bill Booth, who lives in a maisonette at the end of Emily Street just yards from where the warehouse blazed through the night, said flames rocketed into the sky.

Mr Booth, 78, a retired baker, was woken by police as burning debris from the fire threatened nearby homes. He said: “I was woken at about 4.45am and I have to say the police did a marvellous job.

“They took me and a few other people over to Asda, where they kindly let us sit in their staff canteen and gave us tea and drinks.

“I’ve lived here for three years and never had anything like this happen before.”

Fire crews in ariel platform used high pressure hoses to douse the former Yorkshire Car Museum building.

“The emergency services have been absolutely magnificent, the firemen and the police who cordoned off the area very quickly and got us to safety.

“Now I’m just looking forward to a peaceful New Year!” Mr Booth said.

Neighbour Iris Woodhouse stayed in her home despite the dramatic scenes outside. I only found out about it when I woke up this morning.

“It’s such a shame what’s happened to that building – it used to to be a very popular snooker centre at one time,” said retired care home worker Mrs Woodhouse, who has lived in Emily Street for 12 years.

In Lawkholme Lane, Sharon Berry and her ten-year-old daughter Holly fled their terraced home beside the old snooker hall and sat in the safety of their car while the fire raged.

Holding back tears, Miss Berry, 42 said she felt lucky they were alive.

“It was terrifying and I’ve got a bit of delayed shock,” she said.

“We got up at 4.30am after someone banged on the door and the firemen were fighting to control the flames.

“We were told to leave because the wind direction had changed and was blowing towards our home. It could have very easily been a tragedy because it is close to homes. I was told that elderly gentlemen on their way to early prayers at the mosque spotted the fire and called 999, so many thanks to them.

“We feel very lucky,” Miss Berry said.

Incident commander Andy Newman said firefighters have been unable to enter the building due to its dangerous state. Structural engineers were in attendance yesterday afternoon.

Fire crews from Keighley, Haworth and Bingley were called out just after 4am, following a number of emergency calls from the public. That was then increased to six appliances from across the district, plus an aerial ladder.

“When the first crews arrived the building was well alight,” said Mr Newman. “It took about three hours to bring the fire under control and we managed to prevent it spreading into the snooker hall, although there is smoke and water damage to that area.

“The rest of the building collapsed very quickly. We also positioned water jets to stop the fire affecting the neighbouring houses.”

He said fire investigators were at the scene yesterday, but until it was safe to enter the building an investigation into the cause couldn’t begin.

Firefighters were there for much of the day damping down.

Bradford Council was set to open Keighley Leisure Centre for people to go to, under its emergency planning procedures, but a spokesman for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said that operation was stood down when a nearby mosque and Asda cafe were opened.

No injuries have been reported and a fire investigator will be asked to probe the cause.


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