Manchester

Council workers set fire to shop front in Oldham

Jon Riley outside his burnt shop front
Image caption Jon Riley said he saw the flames and had to call the fire service

Council staff have been banned from using blow torches after workers accidentally set fire to a carpet shop in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

Two employees were burning weeds at the front of Jon Riley's business, Roll-End Carpets, when the front of his store caught fire on Friday.

"My stock is not damaged thankfully, but you would think they would have some common sense," he said.

Oldham Council confirmed they were investigating the incident.

Mr Riley, 31, whose father has ran the business for the past 36 years, said times had been hard enough recently without having half of his shop front burnt down.

"It's been difficult with the recession, so we did not need to lose custom to something that could have so easily been avoided.

"I noticed the two council staff outside and I could see what they were doing, seconds after they left I could smell burning.

"I had to dash down the road, call them back to have a look at it and get on the phone to the fire service.

'Burnt out shell'

"I usually work on my own, imagine if I had nipped out - I could have returned to a burnt out shell."

Half of his sign had to be chopped off and there is a huge board covering the mess.

He said the council has agreed to go through their insurance and pay out for the damage.

"There has been no mention of reimbursing any lost trade though.

"Our shop is not the most appealing sight at the moment."

Jackie Stanton, deputy council leader, said: "Gas weed-burning equipment was used to minimise the use of pesticides in a public area.

"During this process, some sparks appear to have hit the shop frontage and started a small fire to a timber exterior frame.

"Our first response team attended to board up the damage and clear away the timber.

"Above all, I am just relieved that nobody was injured.

"We will be investigating exactly how this happened and, until that process is complete, we will not use the blow torch equipment for this purpose."

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