Arson attack - man feared for his life

A DISABLED man feared for his life after an arson attack exploded gas pipes, sending flames flying up the wall of his flat and causing the glass in his window to shatter.

A DISABLED man feared for his life after an arson attack exploded gas pipes, sending flames flying up the wall of his flat and causing the glass in his window to shatter.

The heat of the fire outside terrified 39-year-old Michael Foster who said his main concern was for the elderly couple next door on the first floor of the block of flats in Queen Street, Haverhill.

Mr Foster, condemned the fire-raisers for risking lives by pulling a sofa in front of gas meters before torching it, and said the incident was the most frightening experience of his life.

He added: "I was listening to the football on the radio when I heard this huge bang. I went into my kitchen and saw the flames flying up outside the window. The heat from the flames was so hot it blew out the window. I was so frightened – I feared for the safety of other residents, particularly my neighbours, who are both in their eighties."

Mr Foster, who has lived at the block for three years said minor fire-raising incidents have become more common in the area,

He managed to get himself and his friends outside to safety even though he himself has trouble walking.

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"I knew it must be the gas which was sending the flames up like that and all I could think was that the whole building could go up at any moment. I'm just glad I was able to help but it has really shaken me up quite a lot."

Mr Foster is staying with his parents nearby until the gas supply to the flats is restored but he said many of the other nine residents, who were all evacuated during the fire, had already gone back home.

He said: "What they did was disgusting but there does seem to be a lot of this kind of thing around now. They must know they are risking lives when they do this sort of thing."

The intense blaze burned through window frames and caused acrid smoke to fill the homes in Keebles Yard.

Police, who are appealing for anyone who saw the fire-raisers in action to come forward, said no-one was hurt but believe the outcome could easily have been tragic had the flames gone unspotted for long.

The discarded wooden framed sofa was set alight at just after 4.30pm on Monday.

A police spokesman added: "It had been pushed against a line of plastic domestic gas supply meters and the fire soon spread. It melted the plastic metre boxes and the heat caused the gas pipes to leak. The gas then ignited and flames were sent up the outside walls – causing damage to the walls and windows and smoke damage inside the flats."

He said the fire crews worked to put out the blaze while gas workmen isolated the supply and made the area safe.

"It was very fortunate that no-one was injured in the incident, which could have been an awful lot worse because of the gas involved."

A spokesman for Transco said: "We try to get across just how dangerous and stupid this can be. Obviously, gas and fire do not mix, and people living nearby were lucky the blaze was caught quickly enough.

"We do everything we possibly can to protect the pipework, but there is not much any kind of protection can do if there is a raging fire in a building."

The spokesman added the gas supply had been isolated quickly to help prevent the spread of the fire. Officials from Transco were due to return to the site yesterday to reconnect services to the flats.

Anyone who saw the fire being started or witnessed anyone behaving suspiciously in the area just before the blaze broke out should contact Pc Donald Roberds on 01284 774100.

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