Neighbors said one of Burton’s men’s clothes “melted” in a large gas explosion that stormed his front room.
Clarence Street residents spoke out in the morning after being evacuated from their homes, and spoke of their fear as they looked for an update on the victim’s condition.
The man, in his 60s, was taken to a hospital – believed to be Derby’s Royal Derby Hospital – for treatment for burns and smoke inhalation.
Although police said he did not believe his injuries were life-threatening, close friends who live on his street said his clothes appeared to have “melted” in the explosion.
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They went outside to see what happened when they heard a loud “bang” around 7 pm, on Monday 3 January, only to find that the wall of their neighbor’s front room had collapsed completely and was rolling into the street.
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said, “I heard a bang and then a roar that sounded like things were falling. I went out and saw bricks rolling down the alley between the two houses. He came out of the rubble) and came out of the rubble. His front room wall seemed to have collapsed completely. In the alley and the house on the other side of it.”
He lived alone and was the only one in the house at the time.
“He didn’t appear to be seriously injured, but my wife offered him a cup of tea and when she put her hand on his back, she said his clothes looked like they had melted. However, he looked completely calm and wasn’t amazing.
“Something outside the house was burning and the firefighters put it in the middle of the road and put it out.
“I’m not the type to get scared – you have to assess what’s going on before you start to panic.
“But we are all really worried about our friend. We were trying to get to the hospital to get an update on his condition.
“He said he thought he accidentally hit the stove before he lay down to sleep, then woke up, the light came on and the spark went off. We really hope he’s okay.
“Everyone knows everyone on this street and he’s a good friend and a healthy guy. We’ve known him since we moved here 20 years ago.
“After I called the fire brigade just before 7pm, they were here so fast, as were the police, the structural engineers and the electrical panel. It was a fantastic effort from all the authorities.
“The police there were preferred over force, and the firefighters were fantastic,” he added.
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The witness said the couple living in the house next door, which was said to have been damaged in the blast, stayed away last night.
However, they are said to have returned this morning with the owner who had inspected the property.
An East Staffordshire Borough Council official was also in the street – about a minute’s drive from the Burton fire station, on Moore Street – this morning to check on damage to any of his property.
Another neighbor, who asked not to be named, said: “I was with my baby and the dogs and I heard a huge bang. It immediately sounded like an explosion and shook the house for about a minute afterwards.
“It was terrifying—I was so afraid for my child, who, with dogs, was just as scared as me.
“I felt so close that I was worried something was going on in my house, so I looked upstairs.
“When I realized she was next door, I went out to see what had happened. (The victim) was outside and it looked like she might have shook a little, but she was fine other than that.
“I asked him if he was okay and if there was anything I could do, and he said he was okay.
“Then he had to rush inside as he saw something on fire and brought it outside. It was really scary.
“We have all been asked to leave our homes in case it does any harm to her and the fire department has inspected to make sure they are all safe before we are allowed back inside.
“This morning, I am relieved that no one was seriously hurt. I am still shivering and nervous about this situation.”
Emergency services and full gas supplier statements
A Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “Firefighters were called to Clarence Street, Burton, at 6:56pm on Monday, 3 January, following reports of an explosion.
“Two Burton crews attended the scene two minutes later and identified a site damaged by an internal explosion.
“One of the walls was badly damaged and drained into the surrounding area.
“Seven neighboring properties have been evacuated while crews work to make the area safe.
“A man in his 60s at the scene was treated for smoke inhalation and burns and was later taken to hospital for treatment.
“A small area of the surrounding road surface was excavated in order to separate the gas pipelines from the adjacent properties.
“A structural engineer has also been called in to assess the damage.
“The crews left at 10.15pm after the area was deemed safe.
“He thinks the reason was accidental – because the gas stove was left unattended.”
A Staffordshire Police spokesperson said: “Police were called to Clarence Street, Burton, at 7.10pm on Monday following reports of an explosion.
“Officers, along with firefighters from the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, attended and located the blast.
“Seven nearby properties were evacuated while firefighters worked to make the area safe.
“The wall of a house was blown off the street as a result of a gas explosion from the inside.
“A structural engineer was called in to assess the property and ensure the surrounding area was safe for residents. It was declared safe at 7.27pm.
“A 60-year-old man was treated by paramedics at the scene for smoke inhalation and burns. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital for treatment. His injuries are not believed to threaten his life,” he added.
“The cause of the fire has not been treated as suspicious at the present time, despite continuing investigations,” he added.
A Cadent spokesperson said: “As a gas emergency service, we supported the emergency response to an incident on Clarence Street on Monday.
“After a thorough investigation, we can confirm that the gas pipelines and service pipelines in the area are intact and did not contribute to or cause the explosion.
“We would also like to remind people that if at any time, indoors or outdoors, you smell gas, call the National Gas Emergency Service at 0800111999* immediately, day or night. Our team is available 24/7, 365 days a year to respond to cases of emergency quickly.
The fire service issues guidance on gas safety in the aftermath of the explosion
A Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “In order to protect yourself and others while cooking, please observe the following safety guidelines.
“See when you’re cooking. Take any trays off the heat if you have to leave the room. If the pan catches fire, don’t remove it or try to put it out; get out.”
Don’t use a foil pan. Instead, use a temperature-controlled electric deep fryer.
Never leave children alone in the kitchen while cooking on the stove or oven.
Don’t put anything metallic in the microwave.
“Keep electrical cords away from water and electrical cords and fabrics away from stove.
“Avoid cooking if you drink alcohol.
“Keep your oven and grill clean, as a buildup of fat and grease can start a fire.
“Be careful if you are wearing loose clothing as it can catch fire easily especially when using the stove.
“When you’re done cooking, be sure to turn off the oven.
“Do not use matches or lighters to light gas stoves. Ignition devices are safer.”
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