A former student who lives close to the scene of the blaze has told Granada Reports that she heard shouting outside and rushed to her window where she saw the blaze take hold.
She filmed this video from her home which shows flames pouring from the top of the building.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said they were called to Bradshawgate in Bolton town centre at 8.30 pm to a fire at a six storey building.
There are 25 fire engines and two arial appliances at the scene.
Road closures remain in place and residents are being told to avoid the area.