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Families have been evacuated from their homes after a car dealership caught fire in Portsmouth.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service was alerted to a fire in a ground floor workshop of Trojan Cars a premises on Francis Avenue, Fratton at 18.31 Tuesday 5th July 2011.
Two cars were damaged by fire and two cars received smoke damage. Whilst extinguishing the fire using three jets and six breathing apparatus crews were alerted to the possibility of acetylene cylinders being present at the premises.
A 200 metre safety cordon was set up around the premises, which led to the voluntary evacuation of a number of homes and enforced road closures. An emergency rest centre was opened at nearby Eastney Methodist Church.
Officer in charge of the incident, Watch Manager Pete Scott from Southsea Fire Station, said:
"Firefighters did a fantastic job in tackling the blaze so that it did not cause further damage. Once we had been alerted to the possibility of acetylene being stored at the site as a matter of precaution a 200 meter exclusion zone was put in place due to the risk of explosion and crews set up three ground monitors to flood the vicinity to keep the temperature of the building as low as possible. I am pleased to report that firefighters searched the four workshops within the premises and located the acetylene cylinder in a cupboard, confirmed that it had not been involved in the fire and promptly removed it to a safe place away from building which had been affected by fire. At this point the incident could be scaled down."
"This incident hi-lights the importance of businesses keeping a record of where items such as acetylene cylinders are kept so that in an emergency situation they can be located and crews can be notified of what hazardous materials may be present. It would also assist us if such items are stored near to an exit for easy access or stored on a trolley so that they can be easily removed. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service recommends that where possible alternatives to acetylene are used as the risk of explosion remains for up to 24 hours if a cylinder is involved in fire, unlike all other gases which are safe once the initial fire has been extinguished. This would mean that an exclusion zone would remain in place for some time and could cause a major disruption to the local residents."
An investigation will be carried out to determine the cause of the fire.