Blaze rips through home on common

PUBLISHED: 10:50 02 February 2006 | UPDATED: 11:33 04 May 2010

BLAZE DAMAGE: The East Fen Common home that was damaged by fire.
Photo: HELEN SOUTH

BLAZE DAMAGE: The East Fen Common home that was damaged by fire. Photo: HELEN SOUTH

SEVERAL homes in Soham were evacuated on Sunday night amid fears of a massive gas explosion. Fire-fighters battled for hours to bring a fierce blaze under control as it ripped through a caravan on Soham s East Fen Common. The land was used by traveller

SEVERAL homes in Soham were evacuated on Sunday night amid fears of a massive gas explosion.

Fire-fighters battled for hours to bring a fierce blaze under control as it ripped through a caravan on Soham's East Fen Common.

The land was used by travellers who recently lost a long-running planning fight for permission to live on the site.

Flames quickly spread to an area where 50 huge gas cylinders were stored and destroyed thousands of pounds worth of property belonging to the family.

Some canisters exploded blowing out windows in a nearby home and as flames engulfed caravans, a mobile home and a number of vehicles, fire-fighters feared others would follow.

Fire crews were forced to tie hoses to ladders directing water at the blaze for several hours while they took cover behind a concrete garage.

They feared the 47kg butane and propane gas cylinders, which were already leaking gas, would explode blowing up the whole site.

Their efforts to bring the blaze under control were hampered by low water pressure and they were forced to bring supplies from the town centre and a lake as the fire threatened to spread to the roof of a nearby house.

No-one was hurt in the blaze but three families were evacuated to a nearby hotel as police closed roads around the common including the A142 Soham bypass.

Neighbour Vic Simpson, whose windows were shattered when the cylinder exploded, said: "We were watching television and we could see the flames through the curtains.

"The blast blew out the windows in our kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and office and destroyed our garden fence. It also blew out the glass gauge in our oil. The oil leaked out and we don't have any central heating.

"We were told to leave our homes because they were worried that, if the gas canisters caught fire, they would be like a bomb exploding."

The blaze broke out at around 8.30pm while the family who owned the caravan were out.

Thousands of pounds worth of their property- including a barn, two caravans, a mobile home, burger van, flat bed lorry, transit van and a number of quad bikes - were destroyed in the blaze.

The site, which encroaches onto the protected common, has been the subject of a long-running campaign by local residents after the gypsy family moved in without planning permission last year.

The family took their case to appeal but a Government inspector ruled that their caravans would spoil the ancient common and intrude on their neighbour's privacy.

Council officers issued an enforcement notice on Friday ordering them to leave the land.

Fire-fighters believe the cause of the blaze was accidental.

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