The arsonists suspected of starting last night’s factory fire in Melton have been told by one of the leading firefighters who fought the blaze over several hours that their actions risked his life and those of his colleagues.
The cause of the fire, which broke out in a disused building formerly occupied by Jeld Wen, on Snow Hill, is still being investigated but Melton fire station watch commander Simon Lee said it was believed a group of youths had set a pile of paper alight on the top floor.
As five crews of firefighters arrived to tackle the blaze, on Stanley Street, at 9.45pm last night (Sunday), residents were advised to close windows and doors because of thick smoke billowing into the air.
Firefighter Lee told the Melton Times: “It has almost been confirmed that a group of youths broke into the building and set fire to a quantity of paper on the top floor.
“The fire looked very impressive when we arrived and the building was well alight.
“Arson is a crime and if we can find out who was responsible then they will be prosecuted.
“They are risking the lives of the firefighters who were sent out to fight this fire.
“It also led to a lot of resources being sent to the incident as the police were there, and the gas and electricity boards, as well as ourselves.”
Leicestershire Fire and Rescue say they were alerted by multiple calls from the public with two crews attending from Melton and one each from Oakham, Birstall and the city’s Western station, along with a command support vehicle from Shepshed and an aerial ladder platform from the the Central fire headquarters.
The main problem for crews was getting to the fire on the top floor of the three-storey building, according to Mr Lee.
He explained: “Access was limited so it was difficult getting to the fire when we first arrived.
“The blaze was contained in a room at the top but it spread to the roofing materials.
“We managed to get it under control once we were able to get to it.
“I was there until about 2.30 in the morning and we’ve still had firefighters there this afternoon damping down.”
He added: “We did send out advice for people living nearby to close their windows because there were concerns that asbestos might be involved in the fire although that was later ruled out.
“Thankfully the wind blew the smoke away from the flats on Beckmill Court which is quite close to where it happened.”
Leicestershire Police said it was investigating the cause of the blaze, with crime scene investigators attending the scene, but that the cause had not yet been confirmed as suspicious.