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Hundreds of cars went up in smoke and commuter traffic was brought to a standstill after a huge blaze at a car salvage yard.

A total of 90 firefighters and 16 fire engines were called to First Choice Car Spares, on the Moorfield Industrial Estate, Altham after fire broke out at around 4.40am on Wednesday, December 7. Crews battled all day to bring the flames under control, with residents advised to keep their doors closed.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said the cause of the fire, which was expected to burn well into Thursday, is under investigation.

Emergency services dealing with the fire at a scrapyard in Altham. Photo: Lancashire Fire Service

Incident Commander Simon Fryer said about 500 scrap cars were involved.

He said: “It was a significant fire with large plumes of black smoke which were obviously a concern for ourselves and for local residents. At the height of the fire we had 16 fire engines, we have a high volume water pump which is being provided from the Leeds-Liverpool canal, and we also have our hazardous materials protection unit.

"We’ve been able to significantly hold back the fire, but the fire is still giving out fumes, that remains the same and wherever there is smoke around homes, schools - stay out of the smoke, stay indoors.

“If the wind direction had changed there would have been smoke blowing on to the motorway which would have been a significant hazard.”

Emergency services dealing with the fire at a scrapyard in Altham. Photo: Lancashire Fire Service

Businesses on the estate were affected, with the police shutting off access to the industrial estate as well as surrounding roads and footpaths. The M65 was also closed for a short period between junctions 7 and 8 - but reopened later in the morning. Earlier on, motorway police also had to deal with a Road Traffic Collision next to the fire on the eastbound carriageway.

Incident Commander Fryer said they are working with affected businesses.

He added: “We’re liaising with Hyndburn Borough Council as to what we’re doing in terms of extinguishing the fire so they can get information out to local residents. We will have a significant number of resources here for the remainder of the day and we will have a presence overnight so there will be a fire burning well into tomorrow (Thursday) and potentially still be burning into tomorrow evening. But we’re looking at small pockets of fire.

Incident Commander Simon Fryer

“We’re using our air support, our drone so we’re able to use that to see how the fire spread which is really useful. It may take the rest of this week and the remainder of next week to find out how the fire started.”

Coun Rennie Pinder, of Altham Parish Council, visited the site of the fire.

He said: “It’s really sad, really. It was an inferno, so intense. It’s not just about a fire. There is a danger of polluted water getting into watercourses and all sorts of concerns.

"There were several roads closed and my residents were told to stay inside. All the footpaths were closed and there are two or three footpaths up there leading to the area.

"I would like to praise the fire brigade for acting very quickly and the police for closing the roads very quickly. I’m just thankful that no-one was injured. The emergency services did a very good job.”

Emergency services dealing with the fire at a scrapyard in Altham. Photo: Lancashire Fire Service

Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen councils had to step in to take on school run bus contracts, as Rigby’s Coaches drivers, based on the industrial estate, could not get on site. Keith Williamson, managing director, said they had been left out of pocket due to lost services.

He said: “The first I got to know about it was at 6.10 this morning. They wouldn’t let me in to my area at 6.30 and I was virtually stood out on the road until after lunchtime. All the drivers had to be sent home. Fingers crossed it will be all right tomorrow.”

The Environment Agency said it had provided guidance to the fire service. Manager Dan Bond added: “Specialist Environment Agency officers have been working to protect the environment from the effects of the fire, and have taken water samples to ensure that there have been no impacts to the local watercourse.”

First Choice Car Spares was unavailable for comment.