Chipping Sodbury blaze: 'A lesson in how fast fire can spread'
ABOUT 20 people had to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night after fire broke out at a Chipping Sodbury workshop.
The blaze took hold quickly in the early hours of Sunday at Royal Oak Stables.
Avon Fire and Rescue Service confirmed yesterday that the blaze, which they sent 35 firefighters to, started accidentally.
Caroline Gurney, who lives next door, saw the flames move closer to her property in a matter of minutes before leaving with husband Nick and their cat Humphrey.
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Their shed and part of the carport was destroyed in the fire while Mrs Gurney's car, which was just 4ft away from the fire, suffered heat damage.
Mrs Gurney, 58, had noticed the smell of smoke at about 1.25am but initially put it down to overuse of her laptop. But five minutes later a police officer knocked on their door to inform them of the fire.
Mrs Gurney, a professional genealogist, said: "I looked out of our window to get a good view and then started to take photographs. When I first looked it seemed that the fire was 20 to 30 feet away and looked like a bonfire that had got out of control. Within five minutes it had made it to our neighbour's shed and was just at the point of getting to ours.
"It has been a lesson to me about how fast fire can spread."
As the couple realised how close the fire was getting to their property they prepared to leave their home.
"It was all so fast that we didn't have time to move the car out of the drive," Mrs Gurney said: "The fire was 4ft in front of it. It could have gone up at any time.
"The police and fire service were fantastic. I have nothing but the highest praise for them. We only lost the shed. They saved the car and they saved our house. That was really fantastic.
"As we left we could see a few sparks raining down on the roof of our house and we thought it was going to go."
The Gurneys and their neighbours, including three dogs and a guinea pig, spent two hours at the police station before being advised they would not be able to return to their homes until daybreak and should find alternative accommodation.
When they returned home on Sunday morning there was no electricity as a result of the electrics in the shed being burnt in the fire.
Avon Fire and Rescue Service crews were initially on the scene until just after 5am on Sunday. They returned to the scene later that day and at 3.20pm investigators were able to get inside the property to establish the cause of the fire.
Nearby houses were affected by smoke from the blaze and fire crews used powerful fans to clear the smoke from properties.
The flames were tackled by six firefighters wearing breathing apparatus, using three jets and two hoses.
South Gloucestershire Council sent a structural engineer to the scene due to the scale of the fire.
There were no reports injuries.