A FIRE broke out at a derelict pub in Gilnow in the early hours of this morning.

The first floor of the former Cross Guns Hotel in Deane Road caught fire just before 6.30am.

Three fire engines, a police van and an ambulance were called to the scene.

The road was partially closed off by police for about half an hour while firefighters tackled the blaze.

There was nobody in the pub when crews arrived.

The pub's upstairs windows were damaged by the fire and some debris was burnt, but there was no evident damage to the ground floor.

The fire is being treated as accidental but its cause is not yet known.

It is under investigation from the fire service.

The building, which is more than 100 years old, has been empty since it was closed last year and is owned by A and F Haulage in St Helens Road, opposite the back of the pub.

Joan Barnes, a resident of Deane Road, aged 61, said: “I got woken up at about 6.30am and at first I thought my house was on fire because the smell of the smoke was so strong.

“I looked outside and all of the upstairs windows had smoke bellowing out of them.

“It was a sad site to see the pub in that state. It’s been on the maps of Bolton for more than 100 years and it was such a busy and lively place when it was open.

“It’s been closed since last year and it’s just been left to rot.”

Another Deane Road resident, who asked not to be named, said: “I went outside and all I could smell was smoke.

“It looks like this was started on purpose and it’s a real shame someone could do something mindless like this.

“It’s a beautiful building and I can’t believe it’s been left empty.”

Masood Chaudry, of A and F Haulage, got into work at 6.30am, minutes after the fire started.

He said: “I think someone’s broke in and set a room on fire.

“It makes you wonder what kind of people are out there — why would people do that? There’s nothing in the pub, it’s all junk.

“It’s a nice building and it’ll look good when it’s done up.

“We’ll have to board up the place until we decide what to do with it.”

Crew manager Richard Henthorne, from Bolton Central fire station, said: “A bit of rubbish was well alight on the top floor when firefighters arrived at the pub.

“We were there from 6.27am until about 8.45am.”

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said they believed the fire was accidental.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: "We got the call just before 6.30am. We closed off the road for between 20 minutes and half an hour.”