Residents' petrol station fire ordeal
Saintfield residents told today of their horror after their village was shut down by a major fire at a petrol station.
Maxol petrol station in the centre of the Co Down village was turned into an "inferno", causing nearby residents to evacuate their homes just before 2am.
The blaze was still smouldering at 8am.
The village was closed off to traffic with diversions in place on the Old Grand Jury Road and at the Comber Road.
Families had to leave their homes in New Line, Downpatrick Street and Woodrow Gardens and were given shelter in a local church hall.
One resident, who was forced to leave his home while fire crews tackled the blaze, was Reggie Gibson, a resident of more than 40 years.
"You want to have seen the smoke, the height of the fire and the flames. It was an inferno. It was very, very scary for a while," he said.
"There was a massive bang at the start - it was like a bomb went off.
"I live 200 yards away from the petrol station and I was in bed when the noise woke me at about 1.30. I was put out of my house about 1.45am and the fire brigade and police were dealing with the fire.
"There were about 40 or 50 people in the church hall. It was a very dangerous fire. There was powerful heat and flames that all had to be contained. It was unbelievable.
"We were told that people heard it three miles away in the next village. The petrol station will be missed, it's the only one in Saintfield."
Residents were returned to their homes this morning before 8am.
Lloyd Crawford from the Fire and Rescue Service said the fire was potentially dangerous as it involved propane gas and running fuel.
"We had appliances there from Carryduff, Ballynahinch, Newcastle and Glengormley," he said.
"It was extremely difficult because initially there was thought to be acetylene cylinders and we had confirmed there were propane cylinders involved.
"We had running fuel fires involved and we had a petrol station involved and, obviously, the residents adjacent to the station itself.
"It was potentially extremely dangerous for the firefighters and the members of the public."