Hundreds of students and staff were evacuated from Edge Hill University after a suspected fire sparked asbestos fears.

Fire crews were called to the university’s main campus on St Helen’s Road, Ormskirk, at just before 8.50am after smoke began pouring from the basement.

The building was evacuated as the ground floor filled with smoke, which firefighters believed was coming up through ducts and venting into offices.

A specialist asbestos removal team arrived and set up a decontamination unit as a precaution for fire fighters, as there was asbestos in the basement where the smoke was coming from.

Four fire engines and a fire service Hazmat team were involved in dealing with the incident, and the fire service went on to clear the remaining university buildings as a precaution with a total of 300 staff, students and visitors evacuated.

Crews wearing breathing apparatus broke into the basement with specialist tools and found that the smoke was coming from an electrical junction box. The incident was dealt with by around 11am.

Fire service group manager Tony Crook said: “We attended an incident this morning involving an electrical junction box in the basement of Edge Hill University.

"Four fire engines and a specialist hazardous materials unit were called to deal with the incident as there was asbestos present in the basement, and as a precautionary measure, the remaining university blocks were evacuated.

"Four firefighters wearing breathing apparatus dealt with the incident and so underwent on site decontamination which involved de-robing and showering.

"There was good liaison between ourselves, university staff and the asbestos specialist firm throughout, bringing about a successful conclusion to the incident.”

Despite the asbestos fears, it is not thought that there was any danger to the public at any stage.