Severe blaze at Walsall garage

Firefighters battled to prevent a gas cylinder from exploding when a severe blaze erupted in a garage workshop.

A 150-yard exclusion zone was set up around the car repair business in the Birchills district of Walsall last night.

Flames leapt through the roof of the single-storey building. The garage and its contents, including three vehicles, were destroyed.

Eighteen firefighters converged on the scene in Hollyhedge Lane, near the Manor Hospital, at around 9.50pm after the alert was raised by passing motorists.

Group commander Dave Boucher, who headed the firefighting operation, said there was a risk to life if the cylinder had exploded

"There were more cylinders but only one containing acetylene which is used in the car repair trade for cutting and welding.

"But we managed to cool it down after a while and fortunately there were no homes inside the exclusion zone."

He said it was thought that the blaze, which started inside the building, was caused accidentally.

Fire crews fought the flames from an aerial platform before entering the building.

Crew commander Jason Mace, based at Walsall, said when they arrived at the scene flames were shooting 6ft from the roof.

"It was 100 per cent alight and we had to use defensive tactics to fight it initially," he said. "We also needed to stop it spreading to a two-storey building beside it, which we believe is part of the garage business.

"There were houses on the other side of the exclusion zone but these were not affected."

Police blocked off Hollyhedge Lane from the A454 Wolverhampton Road and stopped cars crossing the dual carriageway from Pleck Road.