Firefighters braved dangerous conditions to tackle a fire in the vandalised former Kirklees College building in Portland Street.
A passer-by alerted the fire brigade after smoke was seen pouring out of the four-storey sandstone building, which originally housed the town’s Royal Infirmary, at around 1am today.
A crew from Huddersfield raced to the scene and called in back-up from Brighouse, Elland and Halifax.
It took officers 20 minutes to break into the building and find the source of the fire. Inside, there was no electricity and the rooms were smoke-logged.
Thieves had got into the building, ripped out ceilings and left pipes and wires hanging down. Huddersfield’s Green Watch Commander Graham Calcraft described conditions as “dangerous”.
His team has to travel 100 metres with a hose to find the source of the fire, which is believed to have been started by thieves stripping wire out of the building.
They had set fire to the wire in a service courtyard lowed down in the sprawling building to strip the plastic coating from the wire and make off with the copper.
The smoke had risen and poured into the top two storeys through smashed windows, filling the upper floors with smoke. Four firefighters with breathing apparatus dealt with the fire.
The Huddersfield crew spent two hours at the scene. Watch Commander Calcraft said: “There had been a lot of wire theft and we encountered dangerous conditions inside.
“The old ceilings had been ripped down with wires and pipes hanging down. Windows were smashed and lots of wires and pipes were hanging down; all the fire doors were open.
“It was pitch black and full of smoke and took us a long time to locate the source, which was a pile of wire which somebody had deliberately burned to take the copper away.”