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








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