Rescue bid for animals following training centre fire

The Montrose Skills Hub in Wigan
The Montrose Skills Hub in Wigan

A rescue operation for dozens of small animals had to be launched by firefighters after smoke began to fill a training centre.

Tanks containing lizards and spiders, and rabbit enclosures, had to be removed from a classroom at the Montrose Skills Hub after it became filled with smoke at around 9.30pm last night.

An electrical fault in heating or lighting components for one of the reptile tanks is thought to have sparked the incident at the Montrose Avenue site, which is run by training provider ProCo.

Watch manager Mark Murphy, of Wigan fire station, said the service was first alerted to the matter by a caretaker for the premises.

"He thought he could smell smoke coming from one of the classrooms and the fire alarm had been activated," he said.

"We investigated and found one of the rooms was heavily smoke-logged so we sent in two firefighters wearing breathing apparatus to deal with it.

"It appeared that, due to an electrical fault, the plastic casing around two of the reptile tanks had overheated and caused the fire.

"Later we used a ventilation fan to remove the majority of the smoke from the immediate area."

Staff from the training centre, which offers a number of animal care and veterinary nurse apprenticeships and courses, were then called in.

Firefighters and staff worked to remove the tanks, some of which also contained spiders and other insects, to a safer place elsewhere within the complex.

"The main thing was that we were able to move the animals involved to another location within the building" added Mr Murphy.

Firefighters spent around two hours at the centre and staff are now understood to be involved in a clean-up operation.