Wigan firefighters’ lives were deliberately put at risk when a potentially lethal gas canister was planted next to a fire in a derelict mill.
Officers say that the canister could easily have blown up in somone’s face causing serious injury.
A pile of rubbish had been set alight in the derelict building at 5pm on Thursday and the large canister of highly flammable and explosive propane was set alongside it.
Simon Connor, crew manager at Wigan fire station, said if the canister had exploded, it could have been “like a small bomb going off”.
He said: “If gas canisters do explode due to heat, what will happen is the pressure that comes off it will be enough to damage buildings.
“The metal fragments that come off them turn into razor pieces and disperse all over. If you get one into a vital area of the body, it can kill you.”
Firefighters found the gas canister had already started to heat up, so they cooled it down and removed it from the building.
They also put out the fire involving rubbish.
There have been a series of fires at the former mill and college building in recent years.
And Mr Connor said it was not the first time that firefighters’ lives have been put at risk.
“It’s happened before,” he said.
“We have had it where kids have put butane cylinders in the fires and lit them knowing we are coming.
“I have seen it done in front of me, knowing it will go bang as I walk towards it.
“We have had all sorts over the years - booby traps and all sorts, but nothing major.”
The number of fires at the Pagefield building has escalated in recent months.
There have been increasing calls for something to be done to secure the site, amid concerns that someone could be seriously hurt.
Council bosses issued an ultimatum to the owners of the site earlier this month to demolish one of the fire-hit buildings - or they may do it themselves.
Mike Worden, Wigan Council’s assistant director for planning and transport, said: “This is an extremely dangerous site and we are urging young people to stay away from it for their own safety.
“We are working with the police and swift action will be taken against those who are caught trespassing and risking their lives.”