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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 20:33 GMT
Army fights fireworks blaze
The scene of the Manchester fire
A large area around the building was cordoned off
Green Goddess crews have tackled a massive fire in Manchester in a building storing fireworks.

The fire started at about 1530 GMT on Thursday in the building on Oldham Road in Ancoats, only yards away from the city's central fire station.

Salvoes of fireworks shot into the sky as the military crews tackled the fire.

After reporting the blaze, firefighters left a nearby picket line to help get a man out of the building, withdrawing to offer advice once Army personnel arrived.

Scene of the fire
Witnesses said firefighters were first on the scene
The armed forces crews were worried about the dangers posed by oxy-acetylene cylinders stored in the building, and an extensive cordon was initially in place.

The fire was under control by about 1930 GMT, although the roof and other parts of the building were in danger of collapsing and the cordon remained in place.

Major Gary Candlish told BBC News: "It's a very hard thing to judge whether the building is going to collapse or not, but there are experts on hand to consider that, and whether we should take measures to knock the building down this evening."

Two people were taken to hospital - one a regular firefighter who had broken the picket line, who needed treatment for a minor injury to his eye.

The second man was a resident at a nearby care home, who suffered from breathing smoke.

Neither was thought to be seriously hurt.

Witnesses said firefighters from the nearby station had been first on the scene, although the Army Green Goddesses had turned up within eight minutes.

James Kennedy, who runs a barber's shop opposite the building, said: "Me and the customers first noticed it at about 3.20pm.

"Within five minutes the firefighters were here.

I saw a small billow of smoke, then the fireworks started going off

James Kennedy
"They broke their pickets to come here, but I think once they realised no one was at risk they just left it to whoever.

"The first I knew, I saw a small billow of smoke then the fireworks started going off.

"There was just lots of explosions and slates from the roof were sent flying in the air."

Linda Jackson, who works at a car rental company next to the building, said she was frightened when she first heard the sound of bangers and rockets bursting through the roof.

"It was just like firework night," she said.

"The explosions were awful."

Fireworks explode from the building
Fireworks exploded from inside the building
Four Green Goddesses and three breathing apparatus rescue teams were initially sent to the building.

Much of the brick Victorian building was ablaze, with the fire spreading to a roof, and fireworks continued to detonate sporadically.

Major Candlish said: "This was very cordial.

"There was no problem with that whatsoever.

"In the words of the firefighters, the boys are doing an excellent job in line with the priorities."

Police were advising motorists to avoid the area after a number of main roads were closed.

The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"The armed forces say they are not overstretched"

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14 Nov 02 | England
14 Nov 02 | UK
14 Nov 02 | Wales
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