Eight boys arrested after fire at factory in Caroline Street in Longton
EIGHT teenagers have been arrested in connection with a major warehouse fire.
Longton town centre was brought to a standstill by the blaze at a disused building in Caroline Street on Sunday afternoon.
A joint police and fire investigation is underway, and the fire is being treated as suspicious.
Five 14-year-old males and three 15-year-old males, all from Stoke-on-Trent, were arrested and questioned by officers.
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Seven have been bailed, pending further inquiries, to a date in August, while one 14-year-old remains in custody.
Firefighters from across North Staffordshire spent the rest of the evening tackling the fire, which sent a massive plume of smoke rising above Longton.
Nobody was hurt in the incident, but the blaze caused widespread disruption.
The Stoke-on-Trent to Derby railway line was closed as a precaution, as were a number of nearby roads.
Group manager Brian Griffiths, from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue, said: "This was a very severe fire and has destroyed the contents of the building, believed to have mainly been pottery lithographs.
"Following a joint fire and police investigation yesterday we are treating this fire as suspicious and the police have made some arrests in connection with this incident."
The fire in Caroline Street followed a blaze at the former Premier Hair & Beauty premises in Market Street, Longton, in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Firefighters have been unable to carry out a full investigation into the incident, due to the structural instability of the building.
Crews spent more than 20 hours dealing with the two fires over the weekend.
The building in Caroline Street, which is owned by Time Square Ltd, has been disused for a number of years.
Richard Cresswell, chairman of Longton Chamber of Trade and owner of RD Creswell and Co, believes it will continue to attract arsonists if left standing.
He said: "The fire was about 20 yards from our Calor gas depot, so the fire fighters had to force their way in to keep all the cylinders damp as a precaution. They had to do it, although the risk of explosion was minimal.
"That building has been empty for five or six years now and this is the second time it's been set on fire. The last time was around 18 months ago. They should knock the thing down before it happens again. The fire was absolutely horrendous.
"There's nothing for teenagers to do around here, so you will get some who will break into a building and see if they can get the fire brigade out."
Nobody at Time Square Ltd was available for comment.
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: "Police are appealing for any witnesses to the incident to come forward, and are particularly keen to hear from anyone who may have seen people entering or exiting the building."
Anyone with information is asked to contact DC Mark Burslem at Staffordshire Police on 101 quoting incident number 609 of April 29. Alternatively, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.