More than 60 firefighters are battling a blaze in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter as an Oldham Street shop went up in flames this afternoon.
Fire crews were alerted to a fire at Paul’s Hair World at 2.50pm and eventually 12 different crews from across Greater Manchester were called in to tackle the flames.
Roads surrounding the fire have been cordoned off by Greater Manchester Police and paramedics are also on scene. Two people have been taken to hospital.
The first policeman on the scene confirmed to MM that staff were still inside when they got to the scene.
Most of Oldham Street, from Betfred to Pop the junction off Church Street, is closed off as well as Tib Street, from the junction off Church Street to Sacha’s Hotel.
There are 12 fire crews at the scene, as well as two ambulances, two TAU vans and a number of police at the scene.
Fire crews suspect they will be at the scene all night, as by 7pm the blaze still hasn’t gone out.
A Salvation Army van is on scene to provide the emergency services with refreshments.
All businesses between the cordon barriers on Oldham Street have been evacuated.
Members of staff from Paul’s look on shocked, with one woman crying at the scene
A mother and son who were having lunch in MCR coffee shop next door came out to find the staff from Paul’s running out.
The mother stood by the entrance to stop the staff members from running back in whilst her son ran for help.
Nicola Forshaw-Murphy, 46, from Wirral, said: “I stood at the entrance of the shop and told them, ‘Do not go back in.’
“More of the girls would have gone back in if I hadn’t have blocked the door.
“When the smoke started to come out I rang the fire brigade but they said one of the boys who worked there had already called.”
Her son ran to Piccadilly Gardens to alert police who were on duty of the fire.
Ben Forshaw-Murphy, 16, also from Wirral, said: “There was a police van parked around the corner but no one was in it.
“I ran to Piccadilly Gardens and found two police officers who came back to the scene with me.
“We got there just before 3pm and the manager of the shop was just about to run in so I opened the door and grabbed him.
“His hair has singed and burnt and I told him not to go back in there.
“The police were asking me what happened and there was no one in control- everyone was trying to get back in.
“I don’t think they realised the severity of the fire.
“Within minutes it was full of smoke and it took another five or 10 minutes for the fire brigade to turn up.
“Some of the staff ran to the back door to try and put the fire out.
“We’d only come here for the day to go shopping.”
A staff member from the neighbouring cafe, MCR coffee company, said she wasn’t worried about the fire.
Jade Pearlman, 16, a part-time staff member, said: “Someone came in and shouted that Paul’s was on fire.
“We had to get everyone out and shut the doors to stop the smoke from coming in.
“The fire hadn’t spread to us though, so I think we’ll be alright.”
Fire crew removed a pile of burnt cardboard packaging from the back door.
Music venue NQ Live, next door to Paul’s, has now also caught fire and they have had to cancel tonight’s gig.
Sound engineer Francis Hunt, 24, who has worked there for two years, said: “I came out of the back and there was a load of cardboard on fire.
“We’re supposed to be opening tonight but we can’t now.”
Area Manager Warren Pickstone said: “Crews are doing their best to fight the fire, they’ve faced difficult conditions because the fire started in the store room of a shop so there’s a lot material burning in there.
“They’re working to stop the fire from spreading to other buildings and we’re working with GMP, NWAS and other partners to take care of the community and limit the disruption.
“Unfortunately, two members of staff were taken to hospital – one with burns, who had tried to fight the fire, and another was suffering from smoke inhalation.”
Pictures courtesy of ManchesterFire GMFRS, with thanks.