Thousands of charity pounds have gone up in smoke after an arson attack on the fire service itself.

Two clothing bins were deliberately set on fire in the early hours of yesterday morning, destroying some of the used clothing collected by the Egremont fire station.

The clothes translate into much-needed cash for the Firefighters' Charity, supporting the families of firefighters who have been injured or killed while protecting public property.

Egremont Fire and Rescue has led the UK in the huge amount of clothing it collects each year.

Watch manager David Mcdowell said the fire service received a call at 2.22am and arrived to find the fire was on their own doorstep, where two clothing bins had been set alight.

“You could smell the petrol," he recalled. "There was no doubt it was arson.”

Mr McDowell said while the loss of the clothing was a blow, the fire could have been a lot worse.

“There is a tree over one of the bins. If that had caught fire the blaze could have spread to HQ Tyres next door to the station and that would have been a disaster,” he added.

As well as the loss of the clothes, the Firefighter’s Charity is now faced with the decision of whether to replace the clothing bins which are hugely expensive, Mr Mcdowell said.

“We really feel this has been a personal attack on us," he said. "We are very angry. This was for charity.”

Station manager Mark Nicholson said the station would now have to decide whether it was able to retain a clothing collection depot at the station.

The fire is one of a number of arsons in Egremont over recent months. Several rubbish bags and bins have been set alight, as well as a public bench at Egremont Castle.

Mr Mcdowell thanked Copeland Council who have agreed to remove all the burned clothing from the site.

Egremont fire station has won the Firefighters' Charity national award for textile recycling for six years in a row.

In January 2020 alone, it recycled more than 10 tonnes of clothing and raised £2,362.

A police spokesman said: “Officers received a report of a fire at Chapel Street, Egremont.

“Inquiries are continuing. Anyone with information can contact officers on 101.”