'Someone will die unless action is taken to board up these old buildings'
FIREFIGHTERS have warned that members of the public and their own colleagues are being placed in danger because of youths breaking into two derelict buildings on Barrow Island.
Fire crews continue to be called to arson attacks at the two sandstone mansions in Buccleuch Dock Road after youths started a blaze at the site just last week.
Unable to determine if anyone is trapped inside and needs rescuing, firefighters have had to navigate crumbling floors and collapsed stairwells to search the building in the dark and find the source of the fire.
Last week's call-out is the third in as many months and fire boss Paul Milburn has said "enough is enough".
Fearing for the safety of his firefighters and the public, Mr Milburn plans to ask Barrow Borough Council to board up the buildings and then bill the owner, who is understood to be a Dalton businesswoman who had plans to convert them into flats.
"We need to prevent any further break-ins and fires - the next fire could kill a member of the public or our firefighters," Mr Milburn warned.
"We understand some efforts have been made to secure the buildings but we need something more substantial."
The sandstone mansions are understood to have been built around 1890 and, along with a second similar property on the same road, would have been built for a senior manager at the shipbuilding works.
At the time they were built, the impressive properties overlooked the expansive Cavendish Park which included tennis courts and a cricket field. However, as the shipyard's footprint has expanded, the mansions are now hedged in on all sides by a heavily industrial area.
Under environmental health legislation, the council has the power to carry out emergency works to secure a premises and send the bill to the building's owners.
This step has recently been taken with the former tax office in Barrow, now called Furness House, after youths were spotted putting their lives in danger by breaking into the derelict office block.
"We can use emergency powers where the owners are informed afterwards or there is a 48-hour notice we can issue if we know who the owner is," Graham Barker from the council's environmental health department said.
"If the work is carried out, by default the cost is laid at the owner's feet and it goes as a charge against the property itself.
"It is something we do quite often and we will secure premises if there is a danger to the public."
Having tried and failed to contact the buildings' owner directly, Mr Milburn now plans to meet with the environmental health department to request the council take action.