Liverpool fire: Major incident declared amid fears blazing four-storey building could collapse

Residents were evacuated and huge plumes of smoke billowed over the city as 50 firefighters tackled the blaze at its peak.

A major incident was declared as twelve fire engines rushed to a blazing four-storey building in Liverpool city centre on Saturday amid fears it could collapse.

Firefighters were called to the fire on Fox Street in Vauxhall at 2.18pm and arrived to find the building engulfed in flames as a huge plume of black smoke billowed into the sky.

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People in neighbouring properties had to be evacuated as ash fell on nearby streets and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said the building was showing signs of collapse.

As Everton played Luton Town in their FA Cup tie, plumes of smoke could be seen over Goodison Park, as well as from across the River Mersey in Wirral and by people gathering in the city centre to watch the events unfold.

A large cordon was put in place around the building, which is believed to be abandoned, and the wider area. Roads were closed, including Fox Street, Rose Place, Great Richmond Street, Richmond Brow, Netherfield Road South, Everton Brow and Prince Edwin Street.

Lara Buchanan, 23, a trainee teacher from Liverpool, was driving through Kingsway Tunnel from the Wirral when she  noticed a 'dark rolling cloud' of smoke. She told PA:: "I could see the fire before entering the tunnel but didn't know where it was coming from. As I came out of the tunnel into Liverpool, the sky was dark and all I could see was a black rolling cloud. 

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“The building was blazing alight and I could feel the heat from the car driving past. I was shocked to see the cloud and scared for whoever may be affected."

By 5pm, the blaze was no longer classed as a major incident and by 6.30pm, nearby residents who had been evacuated were allowed back inside their homes. A structural engineer surveyed the site and the fire service said the warehouse building was no longer in danger of collapsing.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) crews worked through the night to ensure any hotspots had been extinguished. There are no reports of casualties, the service said. MFRS are now working with Merseyside Police to establish the cause of the fire.

Chief Inspector Jon Smith said: “While the cause of the fire will not be determined until the building is safe enough for fire investigators from MFRS to examine the scene thoroughly, our officers have begun preliminary enquiries in the area.

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“CCTV is being examined and potential witnesses spoken to in order to ensure any investigative opportunities are not missed. It should be stressed that these enquiries are being carried out as a precaution and that no cause has yet been established.

"That being said, if there is anyone who has any information about how this fire could have started, we would ask them to contact police so that we can assess all information and work with MFRS to create a full picture of what happened."

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