AN investigation has been launched after fire destroyed a Delph mill and forced the evacuation of nearby residents to a community centre in Greenfield.
But initial indications suggest the fire at Oakdale Mill didn’t start deliberately.
Around 30 fire fighters tackled the blaze which broke out in the early hours of Tuesday, April 30.
It is understood some home owners, unaware of the drama on their doorsteps, were awoken by police in their own properties.
Delph New Road which connects Uppermill and Dobcross with Delph, was immediately shut while emergency services fought to bring the fire under control.
The effects were also felt several miles away. Drifting smoke compromised the fire alarm systems at Mossley Hollins High School forcing headmaster Stewart Marshall to close the building for the day.
Families began to return to their houses during mid-morning with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service scaling back its operation.
One eye witness told the Independent: “It was probably about 2.30am and we were woken by our two dogs growling.
“I thought someone was trying to break in. Looking out of the window though, we saw all the flames and the blue lights flashing.
“It was a really fierce fire and because ash was coming over the roof tops it was decided to evacuate everyone.
“Some people were able to go to families but about seven or eight of us were taken to the Satellite Centre on Wellington Road.
“We just wonder what’s going to happen here next. Not so long ago the river flooded, now we have had a really bad fire. What else? A plague of locusts.”
Saddleworth North councillor Pam Byrne visited the Satellite Centre after Oldham Council’s emergency department contacted her about 4.45am.
“There were about 10 people there when I arrived though none of them were children,” she said. “But there was a couple of lovely dogs.
“Everyone was really in a state of shock and were wondering what was going to happen to their properties.
“We managed to provide them with teas and coffees and later bacon butties.”
Crews from Oldham, Hollins, Chadderton, Ashton and Stalybridge attended the scene after being called just after 3am.
The flames were reported to have covered the entirety of the roof area, measuring roughly 70m by 30m.
Four pumps, along with an aerial appliance and command support unit, remained at the scene as commuters started their journeys to work later on Tuesday morning.
Firefighters also worked with nearby businesses to ensure they could return to work as soon as possible.
Group Manager Mark Threader praised his firefighters and partners who worked tirelessly through the early hours.
“Firefighters worked incredibly hard to bring this fire under control,” he said.
“I would like to thank our partners from GMP, North West Ambulance Service and Oldham Council who assisted us at this incident.
“It was a huge joint effort to contain this fire and ensure it didn’t spread to neighbouring properties.”