AN arsonist is being hunted after a van was set on fire in a pub car park.
Police believe the blaze outside the Brewery Inn in Leigh, which spread to the eaves of the building and a nearby tree, was started deliberately.
Firefighters were called to the pub, on Brewery Lane, after flames and smoke from a van parked up against a wall at the back of the pub were seen rising high into the evening sky at around 8.20pm on Tuesday evening.
The van was completely burnt out in the incident, and the heat from the flames also melted guttering on the pub and damaged a wooden box containing a cooling unit.
Around 10 firefighters from Leigh and Atherton stations worked for more than half an hour to bring the blaze, which drew several calls to the emergency services both from drinkers inside the pub and residents in surrounding streets, under control.
Firefighters kept everyone inside the pub for their own safety while they tackled the blaze, and praised the actions of the public in promptly calling in the fire, saying the incident could have been much more serious than it was.
Crew manager Mick Robinson said: “The flames were clearly visible in the area surrounding the pub and it was well established when we got there. I think it was called in at the right time.
“We used hose reels and a couple of firefighters wore breathing apparatus to tackle the flames, and we then got a long ladder to check the roof of the pub.
“Nothing actually got into the pub and the incident wasn’t serious enough to warrant evacuating, it was safer for everyone to stay inside.
“Luckily there’s no major damage to the building itself, although some new guttering will be required and several external fixings also got damaged.”
Fire crews will return to the pub to fit smoke alarms and carry out a thorough safety check of the building.
The incident has now been passed to Greater Manchester Police (GMP), who believe the van may have belonged to the pub’s landlord after the initial investigations.
Officers will return to the pub to speak further to the landlord, and police enquiries are ongoing.
No arrests have been made, and the police are appealing for any witnesses or anyone with information about the incident to come forward and ring the non-emergency number 101 or call independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.