THREE people were rescued by firefighters after a blaze tore through a Wigan town centre building in the early hours of the morning.
Fire crews from across the borough spent several hours tackling the flames at a former solicitors off Wallgate after being called at around 4.15am on Sunday.
Three people, believed to be sleeping rough, were inside the disused building and had to be escorted to safety, some of them suffering the effects of smoke inhalation.
At one point 10 fire engines were at the scene as crews wearing breathing apparatus brought the blaze under control.
Part of Wallgate was shut to traffic until early on Sunday afternoon as fire investigation teams and Greater Manchester Police (GMP) assessed the cause of the fire.
The blaze started on the fourth floor of the rear section of the building.
Large sections of the building’s roof were destroyed and there was also heavy smoke and water damage as well as smoke-logging throughout.
Crew commander Mike Fairhurst from Wigan fire station said: “When we got there fire was coming out of the roof and the blaze was probably about 20 square metres.
“A few people were sleeping rough inside there but we got them out pretty quickly and they were OK.
“It was difficult to access and the conditions were hard. We initially requested an aerial platform but there was no way to get it near the building down the tight little alleyways.
“Fortunately the crews managed to stop the fire spreading beyond where it originally was. The firefighters inside the building did an excellent job to control it in the initial stages.”
Crews were expected to remain at the scene throughout Sunday, with building inspectors needing to check it was safe for firefighters to stay in the building tackling the remaining hotspots.
Three fire engines were initially called to reports of a building fire but 10 were eventually sent once the scale of the blaze became clear, with crews from Wigan, Atherton and Skelmersdale among those who attended.