A DERELICT church has been branded a "death trap" after it was targeted by arsonists for the third time in two months.
Fire crews were called to Sacred Heart Church, in Blackburn Road, Accrington, on Monday night after a blaze was started in the refectory on the ground floor.
Station Officer Pete Ashworth, from Hyndburn's Community Fire Station, said: "Someone seems to have got it in for this building. It has become a death trap and I'm not prepared to send my firefighters in unless someone's life is in danger."
He fears it is only a matter of time before the entire building is destroyed in a major blaze, if arsonists continue their dangerous antics.
The church closed its doors in June this year as part of a shake-up of Catholic provision in the town. It is currently being torn down to make way for either sheltered housing or a small chapel.
Station Officer Ashworth said crews have been briefed on the layout of the building in case further incidents occur. He said: "The building isn't very secure and we all need to know where the water supply and the entry points are. Because of the fires that have occurred, the building is in a dangerous condition. The floors have been burned away. If we commit firefighters their lives will be put at risk.
"A lot of windows are not boarded up so if anyone goes in there and a fire starts, all the doors are locked so they have to climb back out through the window. It's double jeopardy for them.''
He said if anyone did become trapped inside, his team would enter the building without a second thought. But he added: "We will only go in if we know people are inside, that is our job and that is what we do. But if there is just a fire inside, we will try to tackle it as best we can from the outside as we can't commit firefighters to go in because the building is highly dangerous.''
Inspector Phil Cottam, head of Accrington Police, said officers will set up patrols in the area and they are working with the contractors to ensure the site is secure. He added: "I would hope any parents reading this will try and make sure their children don't go near this site."