Westcliff Gas Main Fire leads to Evacuation and Arrest
A man has been arrested on suspicion of arson after a gas main supplying a Tesco store and 15 flats was set on fire in a “potentially deadly” attack.
Around 30 people were evacuated from their homes and a hazard zone was established around the leaking gas main in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex.
A 26-year-old man of no fixed address was arrested in Westcliff, and is in police custody.
The fire is being linked to a similar incident a few hours before, in a car port underneath a block of flats.
It involved two vehicles and “damaged gas supply pipes and meters for the block”.
Assistant Divisional Officer Martyn Hoddor from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: “The fire was being fuelled by escaping gas from the damaged supply pipes and threatened to spread to occupied flats above.”
“It could easily have spread to the flats causing a great deal of damage.”
The block of 16 flats was evacuated, and the fire was out by about 11:40pm on Sunday night.
A 70-year-old man, who lives in one of the flats, was treated for shock.
The second fire was “deliberately” set on a gas main in the stairwell of another block of flats, and involved “a number of traffic cones and a propane cylinder”.
Mr Hodder said: "This appears to have been a deliberate attempt to damage a gas main, it was directly under the stairs which are the only means of escape for a block of 15 flats and could have had deadly consequences had our crews not got on top of it as quickly as they did.
"The burning traffic cones created a huge amount of thick black smoke and the propane cylinder could have exploded at any moment causing a great deal of damage," he said.
"This seems to have been a very serious attempt to cause havoc and crews did a fantastic job tackling the fire and getting everyone safely out of their flats."
A joint police and fire service investigation is underway.
| ||Collated by Philip Turnbull |