October 26th 1996

“There was a scene of total devastation after a fireball ripped through a suburban street yesterday.

Eighteen homes were destroyed in the searing heat. Twelve were severely damaged.

Dozens of cars were burnt out, tarmac and road signs melted and more than 100 residents were evacuated. But though eight people were taken to hospital, no-one was seriously hurt.

The fire broke out in a Pickfords furniture warehouse in Hoole, Chester, at about 1.30am. Firemen called it a “tinder box.”

Fanned by high winds, the inferno swept down nearby Lightfoot Street where it devoured a row of houses. Some of the owners lost everything.

Robert Owen, who took in evacuees at his father’s pub, said: “They were shaking from fear and cold.

“One man had stored his furniture in the warehouse after a fire at home. Now he has nothing. He was standing with his head in his hands, crying.”

Another eye-witness said: “I thought the whole city was going to burn.”

About 100 firefighters spent nearly 12 hours tackling the blaze. A probe has been launched”.

The Pickfords storage facility contained, among other things, the residents records from the Bryn Alyn Community and other homes in the North West area.

No records are known to have survived.

Note: The fire broke out a few days after Welsh Secretary William Hague announced an enquiry (Waterhouse) into the child abuse that had been reported in care homes and approved schools in north Wales.