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Building is gutted by fire

PUBLISHED: 15:35 28 August 2008 | UPDATED: 11:40 03 July 2010

INVESTIGATIONS were continuing this week over the cause of a fire which gutted a building and caused 20 nearby homes to be evacuated.

More than 50 firefighters tackled the fierce blaze at Seletar Services, an off-shore maritime support building in Queens Road, in the early hours on Monday .

INVESTIGATIONS were continuing this week over the cause of a fire which gutted a building and caused 20 nearby homes to be evacuated.

More than 50 firefighters tackled the fierce blaze at Seletar Services, an off-shore maritime support building in Queens Road, in the early hours on Monday .

Neighbours spoke of being woken by small explosions when the fire broke out at about 2.30am. Firefighters faced life-threatening risks as they tackled the blaze which involved more than 50 compressed gas cylinders.

It took six crews from Yarmouth, Hethersett, Loddon and Wymondham, more than two hours to get the fire under control.

Norfolk Fire Service group manager Peter Mitchell, who took charge of the operation, said they faced a race against time to stop about 50 gas cylinders - including four giant propane canisters and others containing the most explosive gas acetylene - overheating.

He said: “If the cylinders had exploded the lives of firefighters would certainly have been put in danger so we employed defensive fire-fighting techniques, spraying unmanned jets of water on to them to cool them down.”

Blackfriars Road, which runs alongside the building, was blackened with ash as were homes and nearby cars. Fire and police investigators were unable to get in the building because it was structurally unsafe but officers said they were keeping an open mind to the cause of the fire.

Eyewitness Karen Price, 27, said she was woken by a loud crackling sound.

She said: “I was woken by this awful sound, it was like small explosions. I looked out of the window but I could not see where it was coming from so I got my partner to go outside. He said there was a fire and when I went outside the smoke was massive. The flames were at least 10 metres high. It was scary and I started to think what if it spread? I heard neighbours say there were gas canisters in there and everyone was told to keep back.”

Mother-of-one Ms Price watched the drama unfold from Camden Road for a short while before returning to her Havelock Road home.

“I couldn't sleep after that because I wondered if it was going to explode,” she added.

Olesja Antale, 29, lives above the Seagull Garage, opposite Seletar Services, and described how her husband Eric thought there were fireworks going off outside.

She said: “We were asleep and my husband heard a noise which he thought was fireworks. He looked out of the bathroom window and he saw a huge flame come up. He came back in the bedroom and said there was a fire. We called the fire brigade but they wee already on their way.”

Mrs Antale, 29, and her husband together with their 11-month-old son Daniel were evacuated from their home by police and Mrs Antale took her son to a friend's home.

“The flames were very high and the roof went in. It was awful.

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