A VICAR saved his church from going up in smoke after it was set alight by arsonists.
Reverend David Lyons arrived to say evening prayers at St Peter's, Accrington, on Saturday only to find the vestry door smouldering.
The bottom part of the door had been burned away and fire was licking round into the building.
Mr Lyons said: "I was in the church and it was full of smoke. It seemed to be coming from the vestry, so I thought perhaps there was a fire in the boiler room."
"If I hadn't got there when I did I don't know what would have happened, because the gap at the bottom of the door was getting bigger and bigger."
He rang the emergency services; firefighters arrived minutes later and used hose reels to kill the blaze before ventilating the church with fans.
Neighbours reported seeing youngsters congregating around the church earlier in the day and spent matches were found outside the vestry door.
The Richmond Street church, a grade-two listed building, is due to have extensive refurbishments carried out under SureStart's plan to convert part of it into a family support centre.
A large fire would have put building work back by months.
In April, the church was declared "technically redundant", a necessary formality due to English law not allowing the lease of a consecrated building.
It is, however, still being used for worship.