Homes evacuated amid factory blaze
Around 100 houses had to be evacuated after a large fire broke out at a factory and ruptured a gas main.
Up to 60 firefighters spent Thursday night battling to control the blaze at the disused industrial unit in Bury Road in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester.
During the early stages of the fire, there was a small explosion when a large gas pipe broke, creating a gas flare and causing a collapse in a small part of the buildings.
As a temporary precaution, 100 houses near the site were evacuated and the residents relocated to an emergency rest centre, co-ordinated by police and the local council.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service was initially alerted to the incident at 9.45pm on Thursday night when it received the first of a large number of calls reporting smoke coming from the former factory. A total of 10 engines, two aerial appliances and a number of specialist vehicles were used by crews at the scene to support their efforts in battling and containing the fire.
Station Manager Paul Duggan said: "We were faced with a very busy scene with a rapidly developing fire. It was difficult as there was limited access to the site and there were a large number of houses very close, which the fire could have spread to.
"The heat was such that it cracked windows in the flats opposite. All the residents really worked with us to make sure it was resolved safely."
Resident Anthony Lingard was on his way home from an evening out when he saw the fire taking hold behind his house. He said: "We saw this huge column of smoke at the factory and, as it's behind our house, we rushed home to make sure everything was OK."
A number of roads adjacent to the site were closed and were likely to remain shut for some time.
The gas supply to the fractured pipe was isolated at about 2.30am and firefighters began damping down the scene and allowing residents to return to their homes wherever possible. A joint fire and police investigation into the cause of the blaze is due to take place.