TERRIFIED residents fled their homes in fear as a fireball erupted from a raging inferno at a North Featherstone lorry yard.
Onlookers watched in horror as 300ft flames shot into the sky in a series of blasts at Welburn Transport on Church Lane last Thursday evening.
Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes as 30 firefighters from Featherstone, Pontefract, Castleford and Knottingley battled to save nine nearby properties from devastation.
Two men were taken to hospital with smoke inhalation and flash burns suffered in the blaze.
Paul Hale, who witnessed the explosions from a garage on Featherstone Lane, said: “I could feel the heat from the fire. Police officers were ducking down, then the next thing I know the fire engines turned up.
“It was horrible. The most we get here is somebody pinching a bike out of your front garden. To all of a sudden have an explosion, the shock was unbelievable. It was like watching a film – like a mushroom cloud.”
Fire chiefs are investigating the cause of the blaze but say a half-full 4,500 litre diesel tank which was at the garage at the time is likely to have caused the explosion.
Police officers set up a 200m exclusion zone around the blast site – closing nearby roads and Featherstone’s All Saints’ CE J&I School – while firefighters cooled acetylene cylinders which they said were “in danger of exploding”.
Residents forced to evacuate their homes were given permission to return at 8pm on Friday.
The owners of Welburn Transport, a family-run business, did not want to comment about the incident.
Sandeep Singh, manager of the post office on Church Lane, said: “It was mad, it was like a bomb going off.
“It was scary – like something out of a film. The whole street came out, I was trying to get all the people out of the way.”
Nicola Hale saw the blast from her home in Manor Drive. She said: “I was watching it from my attic room, I could see everything.
“In that moment of the explosion my window was shut but I could still feel the heat from it. It was unbelievable. For that second it was really scary.”
Featherstone author Ian Clayton, of Ackton Lane, joined onlookers seconds before the blast. He said: “I had only been there a minute and whoosh, up it went.
“It was a spectacle. When that went up everyone started running and crying. It was frightening. Then the police started getting everyone evacuated.”
Jane Beaumont, 40, of Church Lane, added: “All of a sudden there was an explosion and a massive fireball coming towards us. I thought ‘oh my God’.”