DOZENS of residents were preparing to return to their homes this morning following a huge blaze which destroyed an industrial building in Radcliffe.
About 100 homes were evacuated in the Bury Road and Schofield Street areas during the height of the fire, which broke out at 9.45pm last night.
Radcliffe Civic Suite in Thomas Street was turned into an evacuation centre to cater for the residents forced to leave their properties.
The fire destroyed the 75 metres by 75 metres former General Engineering building in Bury Road, which contained a number of units.
No-one was hurt.
About 60 firefighters from across Greater Manchester, together with aerial appliances and specialist units, tackled the blaze.
During the firefighting operation, a gas intake unit ruptured, and escaping fumes ignited, causing a huge bang.
It took about two hours to bring the blaze under control and firefighters were still at the scene this morning dampening down the smouldering ruins of the building.
Watch commander Gary Manock, from Whitefield fire station, said: “When we arrived, smoke was coming from boarded-up windows and then as we started to make entry, flames began to show.
"Ten minutes later flames started coming through the roof and, subsequently, the front of the building began to collapse. The evacuation of the homes began early on.”
A Bury Council spokesman said: “We initiated our emergency response procedures and there is a team of staff at Radcliffe Civic Suite who are supporting residents affected by this incident.”
A number of roads in the area are still closed.
Meanwhile, investigations are taking place into the cause of the blaze.