Memories fired up a year on

CRUMBLING REMAINS: Lancashire Business Park, Leyland, after the fire last year
CRUMBLING REMAINS: Lancashire Business Park, Leyland, after the fire last year
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This Friday will mark one year since a devastating fire engulfed a major part of Leyland and filled the skies with thick, black smoke.

On December 21 last year, the Lancashire Enterprise Business Park off Centurion Way, went up in flames when a blaze started in a warehouse storing toilet paper.

It was the largest fire to hit Lancashire in a decade, and was the biggest in Leyland’s history, and the companies effected are still counting the cost of the destruction.

Some people lost their jobs after one business suffered a massive financial loss, and although Lancashire County Council, which owns the site, started to rebuild the damaged buildings earlier this month, it is not certain that the previous tenants will move back in.

Haulage firm H Parkinson has recently spent more than £250,000 replacing fork trucks which were destroyed in last December’s fire, and a further £100,000 on racking from inside the warehouse.

The blaze started in one of the firm’s units, but the Lancashire Fire and Rescue service says it is still unclear what caused it.

Company secretary at H Parkinson, Barbara Parkinson, said: “It’s been a tough year, and it happened at a very bad time.

“Our financial loss was quite big, and it’s taken us a while to get back on track, but it’s not just about the money.

“We’re a family firm, so it put extra work and pressure on staff, and some of our customers didn’t come back after the fire.

“We had to let two full-time and one part-time member of staff go.”

She added: “It has cost the company a lot, and although we’ve claimed some back from our insurance, it’s taken a lot of sorting out.

“It’s also difficult for our customers as the incident wasn’t our fault. Our customers have to claim too.”

The business is currently occupying a small unit on the business park, but also uses a bigger facility in Walton Summit.

Lancashire County Council is rebuilding two of the largest warehouses at the Farington site, but hasn’t yet made a new deal with H Parkinson.

“I don’t know whether we’ll move into the new building,” Mrs Parkinson said. “We have put a lot of investment into the Walton Summit site now, and we’re also working on opening a HGV MOT service facility in
Walton-le-Dale in the New Year, which is a massive step forward for us.

“LCC has approached us about coming back to Leyland, but it will depend on the price.”

She added: “We really want to put the fire behind us, but it still takes up a lot of our time.”

The inferno started at around 5.20pm on Wednesday, December 21, and five buildings were razed to the ground in an area roughly the size of three football pitches.

Nobody was in the H Parkinson building when firefighters arrived at the scene, but the flames quickly spread to neighbouring properties including WH Bowker, a transport and warehousing company where chemicals were being stored.

At the time, commercial director Neil Bowker said the cost of damage and loss to the firm was estimated to be between £15m and £20m.

The company moved into a temporary site on the business park shortly after the blaze, but is no longer based at the site.

Nobody was hurt in the incident, and 200 firefighters battled the blaze at the old Leyland Motors site on the first night.

By Thursday, around 50 firefighters remained on site, damping down the smoulders and putting out pockets of fire across the charred site from an aerial platform ladder.

They stayed there for around three weeks, and were still securing the area into mid January.

The fire was never treated as suspicious, and the fire service earlier this month revealed that the investigation into its cause has now been closed.

Work rebuilding the two main warehouses is set to be complete by July next year.