A PUB was evacuated late on Monday night after a van, close to a set of potentially explosive gas cylinders, was set alight in Awsworth.
A 200m exclusion zone around the cylinders, which contained volatile acetylene gas, forced businesses in Main Street to close all day Tuesday as firefighters feared there could be an explosion.
Landlord at the Gate Inn Steve Fox raised the alarm on Monday at about 10.30pm after seeing sparks flying from behind his car park wall.
“Somebody came running into the pub saying, can you ring the fire brigade,” he said.
“I came out and saw all these sparks flying over the wall and called 999.
“The next thing, a fireman came in the pub and told us we had to get out.”
He said there were about eight drinkers in at the time.
“Everyone looked around at each other a bit surprised but we all just got on with it and got out of there,” he said.
Steve and landlady Kim Boldock were put up for the night by neighbours Ivan and Sue Haddon further down Main Street outside of the fire service cordon.
Firefighters were on the scene for about 24 hours monitoring the temperature of the cylinders.
They reduced the cordon to 100m late on Monday morning as the cylinders had cooled significantly, but businesses within the cordon remained shut all day.
Nottinghamshire Fire Service station manager Gary Swinn at the scene on Monday told the Advertiser the blaze had started in a van parked at Awsworth Motor Company in a transport yard to the rear of the pub.
“The cylinders are extremely volatile and can explode with warming, causing potential loss of life,” he explained.
“The cordon is in the interest of protecting the public.”
Gary Watson from Watson’s Autos had to shut his garage for the day.
He said that he thinks the fire was started deliberately after previous arson attacks in the yard.
“They’re just idiots,” he said.
“We’ve all got CCTV so hopefully we’ll catch them.”
Awsworth Motor Company, Buildbase in Gin Close Way and Amber Valley Commercials van hire were also closed for the day but Steve was allowed back in the Gate Inn when the cordon was reduced
He was anxious to open the pub as he was hosting a funeral wake later on Tuesday.
“Suffice to say, the police and fire did what they had to do,” he said.
“I can’t fault them for keeping us informed all the way through and allowing us to open.”
Fire crews from Ilkeston, Eastwood and Stockhill were on the scene.
Police and fire teams were still investigating the cause of the blaze as the Advertiser went to press but could not rule out arson.