FEARS a gas explosion could rip through a Blackburn industrial estate triggered a mass evacuation yesterday afternoon.

A fire which started in Fast Fit Tyre and Exhaust Centre in Daisy Street heated up an acetylene cylinder on the premises, which prompted emergency services to put up a 200m exclusion zone.

Two pumps from Blackburn, led by watch manager Damian Hartley, responded to the 999 call.

They used hosepipes for several hours to cool down the cylinder.

More than 50 residents and ‘shocked’ employees of nearby businesses, including Emerald Upholstery, were ordered to leave the area.

Ismail Patel, manager of the upholstery firm next door to the fire, said he sent half his 60-strong workforce home on the advice of firefighters, who said the cylinder would not be declared safe until at least 6pm.

He said: “People were shocked because they were all on their lunch break when I came in shouting for everybody to get out.

“When they realised what had happened they were calmer.

“Those that were sent home had to leave their cars because the car park was inside the exclusion zone. A taxi firm gave some of them free lifts.

“There were also deliveries that couldn’t go out.

“From what we were told, a fire started by accident in the garage and the cylinder could have exploded.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Constabulary said they were called to assist with the evacuation just after 1pm by the fire service.

“Twenty houses and 10 to 15 industrial units were evacuated and officers helped close off Daisy Street at its junction with Birley Street and further up at the junction of Pickup Street.”