Firefighters have been praised for their quick-thinking, which saved the lives of residents in Hightown, Castleford, in the early hours of this morning (8 July 2011).
Fire engines from Castleford, Normanton and Pontefract were called to what they believed to be a small kitchen fire at 1.29am, only to find a string of small fires in a row of six terraced houses in Rhodes Street. Firefighters quickly rescued the occupants of all the houses, including two people from upstairs bedrooms using ladders. Only seconds later an explosion tore through the row of homes.
Station Manager Mark Allen, who was officer in charge at the incident, said the initial crews had an intuition that they should withdraw from the properties quickly. He said: “The firefighters did a fantastic job of rescuing residents so quickly, and it was their skill and training which told them they should withdraw. This clearly saved not only the lives of the residents, but their own lives.”
Around 30 people were evacuated from their homes. One house was almost demolished by the explosion and five further houses suffered extensive fire and blast damage. One firefighter was taken to hospital with minor cuts.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, including crews from Knottingley and Featherstone who also attended, has been working alongside police, utility companies, Wakefield Council’s Social Services, structural engineers and the British Red Cross throughout the morning.
Fire officers remain on scene today while the area is being made safe and a full investigation is underway to find the cause.