FIREFIGHTERS are tackling a blaze at a commercial garage in Southsea which has caused widespread chaos in the area.
Crews from Southsea and Cosham were called to the fire in Francis Avenue shortly before 6.30pm today.
It is believed the fire may have started at A2Z Motor Services.
However police earlier said the blaze broke out at nearby Trojan Cars.
A 200-metre exclusion zone was initially set up in the surrounding area amid concerns about acetylene gas cylinders.
This has now been much reduced after an assessment by firefighters established that the tanks are not near the fire.
However crews are still working to make sure the cylinders are cool.
The fire officer in charge of the incident, watch manager Pete Scott from Southsea Fire Station, said: ‘Firefighters did a fantastic job in tackling the blaze so that it did not cause further damage.
‘Once we had been alerted to the possibility of acetylene being stored at the site a 200-metre exclusion zone was put in place due to the risk of explosion and crews set up three ground monitors to flood the vicinity to keep the temperature of the building as low as possible.
‘Firefighters searched the four workshops within the premises and located the acetylene cylinder in a cupboard, confirmed that it had not been involved in the fire and promptly removed it to a safe place away from the building which had been affected by fire. At this point the incident could be scaled down.’
Police blocked off Francis Avenue while the incident was dealt with.
Road closures were set up at Talbot Road at its junction with Orchard Road to prevent access to Orchard Road, which backs onto Trojan Cars.
Talbot Road was also blocked off at its junction with Telephone Road and Francis Avenue.
And the Francis Avenue junction with Heidelberg Avenue was closed as well.
Officers have been knocking on nearby residents’ doors to explain the situation and advise people to stay indoors with windows shut in case there is an explosion at the car garage.
Some residents in Telephone Road voluntarily evacuated their homes after being informed of the situation by police.
Charlotte Jennings, 19, of Telephone Road, said: ‘We were in the house and the police knocked on the door and said there was a fire at the car garage and we had to leave.
‘They told other people to stay inside and keep away from their windows.’
Pete Hicks, 41, also of Telephone Road, said: ‘I was eating my cheese and biscuits when one of my flatmates came in and said we had got to get out of the house.’
An emergency rest centre was set up by Portsmouth City Council at Eastney Methodist Church in Highland Road but has now been stood down.