Threat of devastating explosion forces evacuation

Fire in a Stevenage car workshop dangerously heated explosive fuel cylinders forcing an evacuation of units and offices yesterday.

Oxyacetylene, a highly flammable fuel used for welding, ignited at S Keene Autos in Wedgewood Way, one of four units in a single storey building, after a fault developed in a cylinder.

Two fire crews raced to the scene arriving shortly before midday. Stevenage Green Watch ordered a 200m safety zone, enforced by police, to clear the surrounding businesses.

Tony Robinson, Stevenage station commander, who was at the scene, said the fire had potentially devastating consequences. “A blow back developed in the hose and a ball of intense flame was coming out under pressure,” he said. “It is one of the most hazardous things we deal with, which is why we have to put in so many precautions.

“Right next to it was an oxygen cylinder. They go hand-in-hand. If that went up that would have been a devastating explosion.”

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Fire crews extinguished the fire by 2.15pm and those evacuated from the area were allowed to return to work shortly after. No-one was hurt in the incident and damage to the business was contained to the cylinders.

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