FIREFIGHTERS have warned that lives were put at risk after they had to spend almost four hours tackling an arson attack at a derelict building.

Crews from Barrow and Ulverston were called to one of the old sandstone mansions in Buccleuch Dock Road on Barrow Island after a 999 call was made to report a fire at around 2.25pm last Tuesday.

Site: The derelict building was built as residences for shipyard bosses When the eight firefighters arrived, they discovered the fire was in the basement and realised they would need more help, and crews from Ulverston, Grange and Broughton were sent to the scene.

With smoke billowing out of all three storeys and the roof of the 19th century building, firefighters had to break in and negotiate a series of collapsed internal floors and rooms to get to the source of the fire.

Station manager Paul Milburn, who was in charge on the day, said whoever started the fire not only put their own life and the lives of the firefighters at risk, but also placed the entire Barrow community in danger.

"There were open voids throughout the building, it was smoke-logged and very difficult to see, the firefighters had to use a thermal imaging camera to make their way to the basement," he said.

"Our firefighters had to put their own lives at risk to access the fire and whoever started it has not only put themselves in danger, but it was such a huge drain on resources, with up to 27 firefighters there, so we were tied to that job."

Warning: A sign on the site Using an endless list of fire kit, including two engines, cutting equipment, ventilation fans, hose reel jets, main jets and thermal imaging cameras, backed up by sheer manpower, the crews brought the blaze under control by 6pm.

The sandstone mansion is 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.

Historic: The 19th century building Owned by a private businesswoman, who is understood to have plans to convert the buildings into accommodation, the Buccleuch Dock Road mansions will remain boarded up until they can be restored to their former glory.

"It could easily have been another House of Lords," Mr Milburn said, referring to the devastating fire at the former working men's club in Abbey Road in January.

"Barrow has a lot of old, derelict properties like this and they can seem very tempting to youngsters wanting to explore but they need to realise the hazards and dangers involved; this is something that needs to be tackled."