Dozens of call-outs to problem mill site

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at the former Pagefield College derelict building, Bridgeman Terrace, Wigan
Firefighters at the scene of a fire at the former Pagefield College derelict building, Bridgeman Terrace, Wigan

Fire call-out figures have revealed the strain placed on the emergency service by the abandoned Pagefield building in Wigan town centre.

The former college and mill has been the scene of several serious blazes in recent years with force bosses highlighting the dangers crews are facing scouring the empty multi-storey building.

A fire at the site last week prompted a ward councillor to warn that someone will die if action is not taken to effectively secure the site.

Fire service figures show that crews have been called no fewer than 24 occasions dating back to 2009.

The strain on the service is highlighted by the number of pumps (engines) required to attend each call with a total of more than 60 spread across those 24 call-outs.

The blaze suspected to have been started by a youth gang in March last year was by far the most serious with 18 pumps.

Meanwhile, one call-out in July 2011 required the attention of six pumps. Five of the calls were for false alarms and seven were recorded as deliberate ignitions, the figures also reveal.

Following last month’s fire, the second arson attack in May at the site, Coun George Davies called for an emergency meeting.

The town hall has said officers have been in contact with the landlords of the site - who are based overseas - and attempts have been made to shore up security around the site in recent months.

However, the frequent call-outs suggest the fenced off perimeter is proving to be insufficient.

As the abandoned building is spread across several floors with debris and decaying under-foot conditions, officers have warned of the perils they face by having to check no-one is trapped inside.

Watch manager Tony Callaghan said of the latest call-out: “There is a potential for serious injury as there is so much debris. It is really frustrating having to commit resources for a length of time to this. We have limited resources that could be needed elsewhere. We had pumps from all stations across the borough on Thursday night.

“Our crews were there for 90 minutes. Something needs to be done as not only is it dangerous for the gangs who trespass, but also our firefighters.”

Coun Davies told the Evening Post last month: “There will be a death. One of those kids will die.

“People’s safety comes first and action needs to be taken now. We need to speak to the site owner’s solicitors and make sure it is properly secured.

“We need to extend the CCTV network in Mesnes Park to the Pagefield building and then we can catch them.

“I want to praise the fire brigade for their time in tackling the flames. It is a shame they are always being called to it.”

“I am hoping for an emergency meeting next week to sort this out. We need to make sure the owner does something.”