A huge blaze has destroyed part of the Littlewoods Pools building, one of Liverpool’s most famous landmarks.
The roof and upper floor of one wing of the “iconic” structure were feared to have been lost after the fire took hold shortly before 20:00 BST on Sunday.
Merseyside Fire Service said there had been no injuries and there were no concerns over the building’s integrity.
The fire is under control and crews are damping down at the art deco structure, which has been empty since 2003.
A fire investigation officer is at the scene to try and ascertain the cause of the blaze.
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Just over 12 weeks ago plans were announced for a major new complex at the five-storey site on Edge Lane , including film and TV studios – although the part of the building earmarked for the studios was unaffected by the fire.
The deal, signed with developer Capital & Centric, intends to create a £50m northern base for Twickenham Studios, with the creation of hundreds of jobs.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said 50 firefighters from six fire engines and three support pumps tackled the fire at its height.
It said crews had smashed wooden panelling used to board up the windows to access the fire on the upper floors.
Group manager Gary Oakford said: “The incident is under control now and we will be here for several more hours damping down and hotspotting throughout the building.”
As well as ensuring all pockets of fire are out, he said crews will work with local building authorities to make sure the building is structurally sound and assess the extent of the damage.
Merseyside Police have re-opened the Liverpool bound carriageway of Edge Lane.
Adam Higgins, co-founder of developers Capital & Centric, said the blaze had started in the roof of the west wing, which is known for its distinctive clock tower.
“While there is damage to the floor and roof, the walls of the west wing and overall structure seem intact,” he added.
“We’ll know more once we can get inside, but we’re extremely hopeful we’ll be able to save the iconic structure.
“This is a setback, but we won’t let it hamper our ambitions for Littlewoods to be the home of Liverpool’s creative industries.”
He thanked fire crews for battling through the night to save as much of the structure as they could, and added: “The city’s outpouring of goodwill for our restoration plans has floored us.”
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson tweeted: “Absolutely heartbreaking news that the iconic Littlewoods Building is ablaze, looks pretty bad at this stage, let’s hope and pray it’s salvageable.”
The fire service said it was called at 19:52 BST and was on the scene within four minutes, but firefighters were confronted with a “significant” blaze across an area measuring 200m by 100m.
It was brought under control by 01:30 as crews managed to prevent the spread of the fire beyond the one wing.
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The building was part of Sir John Moores’ Littlewoods empire, which included the weekly football pools coupons played by millions, as well as the high street stores around the country.
A number of redevelopment plans had been discussed for the site in recent years but had fallen through.
A celebration marking 95 years of Littlewoods is still going ahead on Monday evening, its organiser Malcolm Spargo said.
The former catering boss said the fire at the former Pools arm of the business was “dreadful news”, describing the structure as the firm’s “jewel in the crown”.
Mr Spargo said Capital & Centric are due to exhibit its plans for Twickenham Studios this evening at the event at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.