Families force to leave homes by blaze

A NUMBER of families have been forced out of their homes for up to 24 hours after a fire broke out dangerously close to three potentially explosive cylinders.

A NUMBER of families have been forced out of their homes for up to 24 hours after a fire broke out dangerously close to three potentially explosive cylinders.

The drama began just after 1pm yesterday when a group of sheds caught fire in Upper Layham, near Hadleigh.

Firefighters and police were called to the scene, in Mill Lane, and discovered the flames were close to three cylinders of acetylene - an extremely volatile substance that is highly explosive when heated.

It is the same chemical that led to the closure of the A14 for up to 20 hours after a van carrying the substance caught fire and partially exploded near Newmarket, on Wednesday.

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Eyewitness Doreen Sillett, who lives in Mill Lane, said: “The first I heard of it was when a neighbour came banging on my door telling me that we had to get out.

“The firefighters told us to get further down the lane so we would be safe but a bit later they decided we should all stay indoors just in case something exploded.

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“From what I could tell it was a shed fire made dangerous by a lorry parked beside it and gas bottles. There were quite a lot of flames to start with but then just an awful lot of black smoke.”

Fire crews from Hadleigh and Princes Street in Ipswich were called to the scene after reports of three domestic outbuildings being on fire covering an area of 20 square metres.

However on closer inspection it was discovered that three cylinders of acetylene were extremely close to the blaze and the decision was made to evacuate the area for public safety.

As a result around 15 families were forced to leave their homes and police had to close Mill Lane and nearby Water Lane, both of which were expected to be reopen this morning.

Matt Barber, sub officer with Suffolk Fire Service, said: “We have had a serious fire in a garden involving acetylene cylinders. For the safety of nearby residents, because the cylinders are explosive, we have had to evacuate a 200m exclusion zone around the site.

“Those residents within the immediate vicinity have been evacuated and those deemed to be a less risk living further away are under a curfew and confined to their homes.

“As a result 13 or 14 families have made their own arrangements to stay with family or friends but as far as I am aware no one has asked for emergency accommodation.

“Unfortunately they will have to remain away from their homes for the next 24 hours until the cylinders have been cooled down and made safe.”

Last night it emerged two other families had been re-housed with the help of Babergh District Council.

A spokesman for the authority said staff were setting up a rest centre in nearby Hadleigh to provide temporary accommodation for residents who had been forced to leave their homes,

A message on Babergh's website read: “As a result, there may be a short-term disruption to some services provided by Babergh whilst those staff attend to the current situation.

“Babergh wishes to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and hope to restore all services to normal as soon as possible.”

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