NEIGHBOURS have described how they fled their homes early in the morning after a gas explosion scare.
Firefighters were called to Winnham Drive, in Portchester, yesterday after a fierce blaze started in a large back garden shed.
Soon after 6.15am the fire spread and they found themselves dealing with an even more dangerous situation.
Flames had engulfed a nearby garage containing two highly explosive cylinders of oxy-acetylen – a gas often used in welding.
Fears that a explosion could damage neighbouring properties led to the 10 surrounding houses being evacuated.
Residents went to the homes of friends and relatives and the nearby Portchester Community Centre, where officers from Hampshire County Council had set up a respite centre.
Fire crews from Portchester, Fareham and Cosham put out the fire and spent several hours cooling down and monitoring the dangerous cylinder, which did not explode.
Local people had to wait until around 11am before being allowed to return home.
‘The most important thing is that no-one was hurt,’ said 44-year-old Alison Rowe of Winnham Drive, who lives opposite where the fire broke out.
‘We could see it burning outside the window and we ran out into the road.
‘It was huge and there was a lot of banging.
‘It was really scary. It definitely wasn’t a small fire.’
Her son Joe Rowe, 16, said: ‘When I first woke up I thought it was sun coming through the window.
‘It was a huge orange glow. I was still half asleep but I could hear the roof tiles popping and I could see the flames.’
Gosport station and incident commander Tim Spencer-Peet said: ‘The crews in the early stages were called to a garage fire and had no idea there were any gas canisters involved.
‘They acted quickly to extinguish the blaze and bring it under control.
‘Then they evacuated people from neighbouring properties and there was a lot of intense activity which made our jobs easier when we arrived. They did exactly the right thing.’
No-one was injured but the fire caused severe damage to the garden shed, two nearby garages and a house.