Astronomers undertaking a late-night spotting exercise sounded the alarm about a fire which has left a grade-II listed building badly damaged.Advertisement
Dr Daniel Holdsworth and Dr Mark Norris were at the University of Central Lancashire’s Alston Observatory for a ‘viewing night’ looking at Jupiter.
But it was a big red ball of another kind they observed as flames leaped from nearby Alston Hall at Grimsargh.
Dr Holdsworth said: We’d had a local community group on site for a talk earlier in the evening and then we started making observations of Jupiter as it was a good clear night for viewing.
“I was planning on staying later to continue my observations while Mark was about to head for home when we saw some smoke. Initially we thought it was a bonfire but we drove round to the site to check and we soon realised flames were coming out of the roof.”
More than 70 firefighters tackled the fire during Wednesday (15 March) evening and into the early hours of Thursday morning.
Around a third of the hall has been affected by the fire and a man has been treated for a broken ankle after escaping the flames.
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The astronomers immediately phoned the emergency services and this helped the fire service get to the incident quicker and contain the blaze.
UCLan’s security services attended, as Alston Hall and the observatory are next door to each other, and helped the fire service to store equipment on the premises.
Dr Holdsworth added: “It could’ve been so much worse. Obviously the hall is severely damaged but thankfully the builders working and living on the site were ok and our Observatory was unaffected.”