PUBLISHED: 16:25 12 January 2006 | UPDATED: 11:27 04 May 2010
A POTENTIALLY fatal gas explosion was prevented in Ely on Saturday night thanks to a humble spud and a bar of soap. Quick-thinking fire-fighters used a Maris Piper potato from a nearby chip chop and a bar of soap to stem the leaking gas after a car spun o
A POTENTIALLY fatal gas explosion was prevented in Ely on Saturday night thanks to a humble spud and a bar of soap.
Quick-thinking fire-fighters used a Maris Piper potato from a nearby chip chop and a bar of soap to stem the leaking gas after a car spun off the road and ruptured the mains supply in Broad Street.
Fire Service divisional officer Dave Robertson said: "There was a huge risk of explosion, because of the quantities of gas released into Broad Street and the surrounding area."
Fire crews and police immediately began emergency evacuation procedures, fearing that even the flick of a light switch could result in an enormous explosion.
People living close by were told to remain indoors and to extinguish any candles or open fires, and not use cookers or light switches.
Mr Robertson said that an engineer from the gas company could have been as much as an hour away, and it was at this point that fire crews came up with an unorthodox method of blocking the leaking gas pipe.
"It was a bit of improvisation by us, really," he said.
"We jammed a bar of soap down the pipe and capped it off with a potato - we couldn't actually stop the flow but it did restrict it."
The soap was borrowed from the Fortune Garden Chinese Restaurant and the potato from Alan Fish Bar, both on Broad Street.
Owner of Alan Fish Bar, Chi Leung Chan, said that he had never been asked for one of his potatoes before.
"I was surprised, but when they said what it was for I thought it was clever," Mr Chan, who has run the shop for nine years, said.
"The pipe was quite large, so they asked for a big one."
The makeshift stopper bought the crews enough time to isolate the gas supply before the arrival of Transco 45 minutes later, which made more permanent repairs to the gas supply.
"We'd prepared the Maltings to take people, but we only evacuated one lady in the end," Mr Robertson said.
The woman in question was returned home shortly afterwards.
Large quantities of gas flooded out onto Broad Street when a car spun off the road after a collision with two others, and crashed into the building of Jones and Co hairdressers, fracturing the mains gas supply to the flat above the shop.
An ambulance and police responded to a 999 call at 8.30pm, and arrived at the scene to find that nobody was hurt in the collision.
Zanna Solovjova, who lives on Broad Street, said: "My husband heard a bang, and then the fire service came here and asked us to go out into the street."
She said that she, her husband and her baby made their way out onto the street, where they waited with other residents for about 15 minutes.