Families evacuate homes after Bardwell gas leak

The scene in Bardwell after a gas main fire.

The scene in Bardwell after a gas main fire. - Credit: Archant

Families had to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night after flames licked up the side of a home and set fire to a gas main.

It is believed the fire, in the village of Bardwell, started in a garden-waste wheelie bin situated in the narrow corridor between two detached houses.

One of the residents, Bob Bowman, 67, of Low Street, said the first he knew was a neighbour banging on his door at 12.30am on January 13.

“He thought it was here and came and hammered on my door,” he said.

Mr Bowman believed the fire started in the bin but then spread to the gas main and wall of his neighbours’ house, which he said belonged to a husband and wife and their two children.

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Fortunately, the alarm was raised and no one was hurt. However, the firefighters on scene were unable to extinguish the flames until engineers from the National Grid arrived to isolate the supply to the main, which was damaged by the fire, otherwise it would have continued pumping out gas after the fire was put out.

After realising what was going on, Mr Bowman said he told the man who alerted him to also wake his neighbours.

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“Meanwhile I came upstairs and my wife was already awake,” he said. “She said ‘what do we do’ and I said ‘get out’.

“The guy had the common sense to call the fire bridgade before he came up so they were on their way.”

He added: “The fire people were absolutely marvellous and so were the National Grid guys.”

As well as his neighbour’s gas main, a pipe leading to Mr Bowman’s gas main began leaking gas too after it was damaged by the fire.

Fire crews from Ixworth and Bury St Edmunds were called to Bardwell.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service confirmed the fire was brought under control at 2.50am. A spokesman said officers at the scene had put the cause down as “accidental” but there was no further information.

Mr Bowman said he remained unaware how the fire started in his wheelie bin.

“The strangest thing is that it’s pretty certain it started in the bins but last thing at night my wife went to bed about 10pm and I went at 11pm,” he said. “Before I went I cleared the decks in the kitchen and there was an item for each of the bins – general, garden waste and some junk email.

“At 11pm I went out and put the items in each bin. If it had been smouldering then I would have noticed I’m sure.”

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