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Burnley families forced to flee home as 'man severs gas pipe'
HOUSES were evacuated after a man cut a gas pipe and threatened to blow himself up.
Police cordoned off the street outside a flat in Westgate and 10 residents were forced to flee their homes as trained negotiators were called in.
A suspect was eventually persuaded to come out peacefully by an emergency call centre operator after a tense two-hour stand off.
Inspector Andy Carter, from Pennine division, said: “It could have been very severe.
"All the man had to do was ignite it. It could have been very messy to say the least.
“It is a credit to our negotiator, based at Burnley Police Station.
“Our communications operator kept the suspect on the phone and persuaded him to come out and surrender himself after a one hour and 40 minute call.
“It takes extreme patience and the difficulty is trying to keep them talking for that long and trying to persuade them to do the right thing.
“She will be recognised and commended for her actions.”
The man, who had barricaded himself into the flat, called 999 saying he had cut the gas pipe and wanted to kill himself.
Officers knocked on neighbouring doors ordering 10 residents to leave before sealing off the area.
Fire crews and paramedics were on standby near the scene at around 10.30pm on Wednesday.
Engineers from National Grid were also called out and cut off supplies to the property.
Residents described the dramatic moment they were told to leave their homes.
Jason Cruz, 24, who lives in a neighbouring flat, said: “I got a knock on the door from the police saying I had to leave my flat.
“I got told that some guy had leaked gas and was threatening to blow himself up.
“The residents were took to the top of the street and waited in a police van because it was raining.
“Someone eventually came out and the police took him away.
“Within an hour or so we were allowed back into the flats.
“I was concerned. I didn’t think he would blow it up, but I was worried."
Another resident Aaron Hain, 35, said: “The guy in the flat had filled the house full of gas because he had split up with his girlfriend, according to one of his mates.
“It started pouring down and we were put into the back of a police van.
“I was frustrated that we had to be evacuated because of this idiot. Some residents even came out with their suitcases in case the flat exploded."
Mr Hain said he believed three people live in the property, over two flats.
Joel Mason, crew manager for Burnley fire station, said: “We had a call from a suicidal male and the smell of gas.
“We were on stand-by for around 90 minutes.
“The male had barricaded himself into his property and tampered with the gas supply.
“There was a substantial amount of gas in the property. It would have been nasty if ignited.”
A spokeswoman for National Grid said: “The police requested our assistance because they suspected someone was making a suicide attempt.
“Our engineer arrived on scene at 11.16pm and cut off the gas supply to the property.
“We eventually got into the flat and vented the property to release the gas which had built up.
“The gas had built up within the flat and it could have caused a big explosion.
“We opened the windows and doors and measured the level of gas to ensure it was down to a low or non-existent level before allowing residents back into their homes.”
Ryan Hill, 25, from Westgate, was yesterday charged with causing a public nuisance and threatening to damage or destroy property.
He has been bailed and is due to appear before Burnley Magistrates' Court on November 8.