A FIRE chief has warned of the dangers of demolition sites after a fire started in the old hospital tower block at the Cumberland Infirmary.

Watch manager Stuart Adams is urging people to stay away from the building which is currently being demolished to make way for a new £35m cancer centre.

Crews from Carlisle’s east and west fire stations were alerted at 4.45am yesterday to a fire on an upper floor of the building.

Mr Adams said: "It must have been set deliberately. There is no ignition sources and no reason why the fire should have started.

"I know there have been problems with people breaking into the site. They have obviously set the fire."

He continued: "It's just a waste of resources. We are standing there for two hours trying to put this rubbish fire out in a difficult position and that means we are not available to go to house fires and road crashes.

"It's putting other people in danger by this stupidity of breaking into sites and setting fires."

Mr Adams explained that while the fire was small, it was difficult to reach due to the state of the partly-demolished building surrounded by rubble, twisted metal and debris.

"We didn't want to commit firefighters or get too close because there was that much hanging debris and concrete and everything that is ready to fall down," he said.

A ground monitor was used to enable the crew to direct the water from a distance but roofing materials and metal plates were shielding the fire.

Demolition contractors arrived at about 6.45pm and used machinery to drag the debris away in order for the firefighters to gain better access.

Mr Adams said it's not the first time they have been called to the site. They've previously responded to reports of people thought to be in need of rescue form the scaffolding but have arrived to find they've managed to get out.

"It's a really dangerous area," he said. "If someone does go in playing around and get into difficulty, we are then going to have to committed firefighters to rescue them which puts firefighters in danger as well. I don't want it to get to that position."

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said an investigation would take place.

A spokeswoman said: “We can confirm there has been a small fire on the site of the old tower block building at the Cumberland infirmary which is currently being demolished.

“Nobody has been hurt.

“We will now work with our contractors to investigate the incident and we would like to remind people not to enter the demolition site.”

Work began in January to demolish the building. This was due to be completed by the end of April, with construction for the new, ultra-modern centre starting in the summer.

Due to open in summer 2021, it will house new technology and bring radiotherapy and chemotherapy services - which are currently in separate parts of the infirmary site - together.