Dozens of residents were evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night after a gas explosion drama erupted on a city estate..
Almost fifty adults, children and even their pets spent hours in Coffee Hall community centre while firefighters dealt with a blaze involving several potentially lethal welding gas cylinders.
At any time the containers could have exploded like bombs, devastating everything within a few hundred metre radius.
Twenty firefighters, a dozen police officers and council officials joined forces to deal with the official public emergency, which began when a tractor caught fire under a car port at 3am.
Though firefighters dealt quickly with the blaze, they knew the dangerously overheated gas cylinders would take hours to cool to a safe level.
Neighbouring families in Serles Close were woken by police and evacuated. Still wearing pyjamas, they were rushed to Garroways community centre, while nearby grid roads were closed to prevent anybody coming into the estate.
Centre caretaker Jean Asquith told the Citizen: “When I arrived with the key, people were just huddled outside the door. Most of them were in their nightwear and hadn’t had a chance to bring anything with them.
“We made hot drinks and did out best to make everybody comfortable. Luckily there were chairs and tables all laid out ready for the Wednesday night bingo, so everybody could sit down.”
In true Dunkirk spirit, the Coffee Hall community rallied round, said Jean.
“The manager of the One Stop shop opposite came out and gave us milk, bread, bacon and eggs. People with cigarettes were sharing them with the smokers who’d had to leave their cigarettes behind … everybody just did everything they could.”
By 6.30am firefighters had cooled the gas cylinders down sufficiently for them to be declared safe and people were allowed back into their homes.
“It ended happily. No-one was injured and no damage was done. The only person upset was one little boy who had to go home before he had his bacon sandwich!” said Jean.
All the residents have praised police, fire and council officers for keeping them safe..
Ward councillor Steve Coventry said: “The emergency services responded magnificently – as did our own council staff. And the local community rallied round.
“I am very proud of all concerned. What a great community!”