AN investigation has been launched into the cause of a huge fire that brought parts of Bury to a standstill during morning rush hour.

Responding to a 4.45am alert, fire crews from across Greater Manchester battled the blaze at Kashmir Superstore on Kershaw Street.

Rochdale Road was closed causing major traffic problems for morning commuters.

And nearby residents were told to shut windows and doors to protect themselves from smoke inhalation.

Jon Hill, station manager at Bury Fire Station, said: "It was a very intense fire and because of the heat that was generated, a turntable ladder and high-pressure lance were required to direct jets and spray mist so that the building was cool enough for firefighters to enter."

Abid Ali, the devastated owner of the two-storey food store, raced to the building as soon as he was alerted.

"I feel very bad, especially as I've been stocking up for Ramadan," said Mr Ali, who set up the family business four years ago.

At its height, fire crews from Bolton, Heywood and Whitefield joined the Bury crew in fighting the fire.

Due to the roof being "too dangerous" to stand on a platform engine was brought in from Stretford to assist fire fighters at the top of the building. 

Police also attended and are trying to determine whether the cause of the fire was malicious and deliberate.

Mr Hill said: "It could have started inside in a corner, or it could have started in a pile of cardboard outside the building, we don't know yet.

"We've been working with North West Electricity and the Gas Board to carry out safety checks and the building inspector will need to check it out before investigators can go in."

He said the fire service will be present throughout the rest of the day to carry out the clearing and damping down of the building.

"I would say that the fire crews have done an excellent job under very difficult conditions. Thanks to their hard work they prevented the fire from spreading to other buildings."

Their efforts also meant there was no need to evacuate residents, and neighbouring businesses, including Harvey's taxi firm, could operate as normal.

The fire was contained in the interior of the building but steam and smoke could be seen coming out of the roof.

Fire crew remained on the scene until mid afternoon today making sure that the area was safe, damping down and ensuring electrics were isolated.

Rochdale Road, which had been closed between Heywood Street and Albert Street, was re-opened at 8.30am.