FIREFIGHTERS continue to tackle the blaze at Wharfside apartments, more than 24 hours after it set alight.
Crews from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service have six fire engines, two aerial platforms and a number of specialist vehicles at the scene of the fire which started at 4am on Sunday, at Wharfside, off Heritage Way.
Around 50 firefighters have been actively fighting the fire in the high-rise block through the night.
The nature of the wooden-framed building meant the flames quickly spread and people living in 120 flats in the block were evacuated.
At its height yesterday more than 100 firefighters, including crew from neighbouring Lancashire and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Services, were mobilised to fight the huge fire.
At one point incident commanders at the scene withdrew firefighters from the building because the damage to it was so severe it was deemed unsafe and in danger of total collapse.
And flames and plumes of smoke could be seen above the town centre from many miles away.
Group Manager, incident commander at the scene overnight, said: “This remains a difficult and complex fire and we do not yet have it surrounded or under control. We have worked immensely hard through the night in difficult conditions but we aren’t on top of it yet.
“It is desperately sad for the residents and our thoughts are with them as they watch their homes and all their belongings burn for such a prolonged period of time. We are really trying our best to bring this to a conclusion as soon as possible.”
Residents have speculated about the cause of the fire, suggesting a barbecue on a balcony was to blame.
But the fire service refused to confirm the source at this stage.
Some were told that they may not be able to enter their homes ever again and a group of the worst affected were taken to a nearby hotel for the night where they received assistance from the British Red Cross.
Dozens of other found themselves staying with friends and family in the knowledge that their home and possessions had perished.
Peter O’Reilly, chief fire officer at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, added: “Finding the cause of the fire could take a few days.
“We have specialist fire investigators conducting a thorough procedure. We have been looking at whole range of things. It is easy to make assumptions, but no-one knows the cause yet. It is important that residents are not vilified or blamed.”