Firefighters called to blaze at Forest Bank prison as smoke seen coming from cell windows

Forest Bank prison -Credit:Manchester Evening News
Forest Bank prison -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Firefighters were scrambled to Forest Bank prison to tackle a blaze tonight. Residents living near the jail have described smoke coming from the cell windows.

Three fire engines were dispatched to the privately-run prison in Agecroft just after 6pm on Saturday. There are no reports of any injuries.

Firefighters spent about 30 minutes at the jail, which is operated by facilities management giant Sodexo on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.

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Residents called the Manchester Evening News tonight to report smoke was issuing from at least two cell windows. When we approached Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service for a comment, a spokesman said: "Just after 6pm this evening (Saturday 11th May) three fire engines from Salford Central and Agecroft fire station attended an incident on Agecroft Road, Pendlebury.

"Firefighters were in attendance for around thirty minutes."

The jail has been beset by problems. In April last year, an M.E.N. investigation uncovered allegations of widespread drug use and inmates who 'run the wings', prompting an MP and Salford's mayor to write to the government to demand an 'urgent' review.

Our revelations included a call from Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey for the Ministry of Justice to cancel the billion pound contract it has with Sodexo to run the jail.

Our investigation, based on allegations from a whistle-blower, an ex-prisoner and his father, and the family of a grandfather who died in his cell, exposed what Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey branded a 'culture of lawlessness' at the jail.

The M.E.N. revealed that:

  • Drugs are rife, smuggled in via 'legal letters' and inmates are 'off their t**s a lot of the time'

  • Inmates brew their own hooch

  • Violence is commonplace and inmates 'run the wings'

  • Staff feel 'unsafe' and a lone guard can be 'left to guard 100-plus inmates'

  • Staff have to buy 'their own uniform because of cost-cutting'

  • A desperate father paid off a drug dealer on his addict son's wing because 'staff didn't protect him'

Sodexo's contract to run the prison ends on January 19, 2025. Back in 1998, it was awarded a deal worth £1,006,771,964 to design, build and run the prison built on the site of the former Agecroft power station under a private finance initiative to house a maximum 1,064 inmates. The deal was to last 25 years, before being extended.

Sodexo, founded and based in France, runs six prisons in England and Scotland, and in 2022 recorded revenues of 21.1 billion euros, including 'underlying operating profit' of more than a billion euros, up 83 per cent.