Residents return home after fire

ALL of the residents caught up in a dramatic evacuation following the discovery of highly explosive gas cylinders in a garage fire in Stowupland have now been able to return to their homes.

ALL of the residents caught up in a dramatic evacuation following the discovery of highly explosive gas cylinders in a garage fire in Stowupland have now been able to return to their homes.

The cylinders, which were under constant watch by specially trained firefighters last night after it was feared they could blow up at any moment, were safely removed at 12pm, allowing everyone back into their homes.

Around 100 people were evacuated from a 200 metre cordon which was set up by police from a garage adjacent to a bungalow in Hornbeam Road yesterday.

The fire drama led to 40 households being evacuated, with about 20 people having to sleep on inflatable mattresses in the nearby village hall.

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Fire crews were still on the scene this morning and people were not allowed back into their homes until it was declared safe. They had to cool the cylinder and wait for its manufacturer to safely remove it.

The drama unfolded when firefighters discovered the cylinder after being called to a fire in a garage adjoining a bungalow in Hornbeam Road at about 5.30pm. A major incident was declared and a 200-metre cordon was put around the property to protect people from a possible blast.

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A man who had tried to tackle the blaze was treated for smoke inhalation by paramedics at the scene.

Villagers were given less than five minutes by police to vacate their homes and go to Stowupland Village Hall, where a rest centre was set up.

Three households refused to be evacuated and stayed at their homes but nearly 100 people were persuaded to find alternative sleeping arrangements, around 20 residing at the village hall and many others opting to stay with relatives.

Tony and Barbara Lyons, of Hornbeam Road, had been out celebrating her 75th birthday with family when they returned to find police had blocked off the road where they lived.

Mrs Lyons, who had to spend the rest of her birthday in the rest centre, said this morning: “This is one I will never forget.

“We did not sleep very well but they looked after us. We were given tea and toast this morning.”

Glenda Atkins, 49, who lives 50 yards from the fire, said: “The first I heard about it was when my husband phoned to ask if I was OK.

“About an hour later we were evacuated - they did warn us that it might happen so we were prepared.

“We came to the village hall and they couldn't do enough for us. I haven't slept. I didn't get tired and was talking to people for most of the night. There was a very good spirit.”

Jerry Voden, a member of the Stowupland Parish Council, who also had to leave his home in Oak Road, said the emergency evacuation went very well.

“We have an emergency plan in place on the parish council and it worked out well,” he said. “It couldn't have gone any better.

“We opened up the village hall for residents and them the emergency services stepped in to take control.

“There have been no problems at all. We had a couple of elderly residents but their medical needs were well looked after.”

Mid Suffolk District Council and the Salvation Army helped to co-ordinate the operation.

The fire caused considerable damage to the garage but it was extinguished before it reached the adjoining bungalow.

Assistant Divisional Officer Pat Dacey, of Suffolk Fire Service, said: “An exploding acetylene cylinder could quite possibly throw the front and back wall of a house out with no problem at all. They are very dangerous in an explosive manner and very unpredictable so the only procedure for dealing with it is to cool it for 24 hours.”

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