ARSONISTS struck at a derelict former theatre and bingo hall in Shirebrook early last Wednesday morning in the latest in a series of blazes at the site.
Fire crews from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire were called to the incident at the old Empire building, on Thickley Close, at around 6am.
Part of the northern side of the building was demolished on Thursday because of safety fears and community leaders are now calling for action at the site.
A resident of nearby Station Road, who did not want be named, said: “I saw what was going on at about a quarter past six, because I noticed the blue lights from the fire engine.
“It was just engulfed in flames, I was shocked.”
No-one was hurt in the incident and fire crews brought the blaze under control using an aerial ladder platform.
Richard Barker, Chesterfield station manager and incident commander at the scene, said: “When we arrived we were faced with a rapidly developing fire involving one side of the building.
“We surrounded it to make sure it did not spread to neighbouring properties.
“This is around the sixth fire at this site in recent years.”
Shirebrook district councillor Brian Murray-Carr said it was time the site was cleared up and made safe.
“We have had a succession of fires here over recent years and I am sure the residents living close by have had enough,” he said.
“It is really down to the owner of the site to make sure it is safe and secure.”
Owner Karl Hampson said he was stuck between ‘a rock and hard place’ because of the recent economic conditions. Plans to build homes on the site have stalled because of the recent market slump.
“The site was bought at a time when things looked a bit better financially than they do now,” he said. “This latest fire has put extra pressure on me financially.
“Unfortunately I think the damage caused means the building will ultimately have to be fully demolished.”
Built in around 1910, the building was first used as a theatre but later became a cinema and finally a bingo hall before closing in 2004.
Crews from Warsop, Mansfield, Chesterfield, Shirebrook and Bolsover attended the incident.