Residents had to be evacuated after firefighters discovered a gas canister which could have ‘exploded like a bomb’ while tackling an allotment blaze.
Ten people had to leave their homes and the area was cordoned off when crews discovered the dangerous cylinder on an Oswaldtwistle allotment in the early hours of Thursday morning (May 20).
Firefighters were called to Stanhill Lane allotments at 2.10am on Thursday morning.
Eight sheds and outbuildings and two garages were alight and three propane cylinders exploded as they arrived.
Resident Neil Riding, 59, was woken by the fire. He said: "I woke up and could hear a popping noise. I thought I was being burgled but then realised the noise was coming from the allotments.
"When I opened the window it was just a wall of flames. I could see cylinders on fire from the bedroom window."
Around 25 firefighters tackled the blaze at its peak and it took two hours to put the flames out. One house was damaged in the fire, suffering a scorched window.
However, residents only had to be evacuated from their homes once firefighters discovered a cylinder of deadly acetylene.
A spokesman for the fire service said: "Gas cylinders were already exploding when we got there.
"This wasn’t so surprising, as people perhaps have propane cylinders in their sheds. The situation escalated when we discovered an acetylene canister.
"Acetylene is used in conjunction with oxygen cylinders as metal welding and cutting kit. When it gets hot it becomes explosive in a very unpredictable way. It acts a bit like nitro-glycerine.
"A jolt or a knock would cause it to explode and then basically it’s like a bomb going off."
Firefighters set up a cordon and jetted water onto the acetylene cylinder from a safe distance to cool it down and prevent it from exploding.
Watch manager Phil Whittaker said the firefighters have been called out the same allotments on five previous occasions and that the blaze is being treated as suspicious.
He said: "Three propane cylinders exploded, luckily not injuring anyone. We also discovered one acetylene cylinder which is far more volatile, which luckily didn’t explode.
"The cause is still being investigated but its being treated as suspicious. We are going to have to spend lot of time cooling it down."
The fire service spokesman added: "Even if the cylinder is cooled down the gas can remain unstable for a number of hours and the cordon has to remain in place."
Firefighters were still cooling the cylinder as the Observer went to press and it was expected that they would be there for most of Thursday.
Officers from Lancashire Constabulary also attended, assisting with traffic control and evacuation.