POLICE are continuing to investigate the cause of a gas main fire that led to some 30 residents of the Arboretum are of Worcester being evacuated from their homes late at night.

Emergency services were called to the junction of East Street and Southfield Street on Friday night after some plastic barriers surrounding road works were reported to be on fire.

When firefighters arrived shortly after 11.25pm, they found the burning barriers had fallen or been pushed into the hole, melting an exposed gas pipe and causing the gas to ignite.

Firefighters and police were joined by emergency response teams from National Grid, which is responsible for the gas supply, Western Power and Severn Trent, which dug the original excavation.

The three fire crews from Worcester made sure the gas flare did not threaten nearby properties, while the utilities engineers worked to isolate the gas supply and turn it off.

Dan Quinn, of Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, said: “In a situation like this, the drill is to let the gas leak burn until you can cut off the supply. Putting out the flames before the leak is isolated is asking for trouble, because then you’ve got the gas still coming out, with the risk of an explosion.

“So our crews keep the area around the leak cooled down, make sure there are no secondary fires and generally keep

things contained.”

Occupants of nearby houses were taken to the Worcester Whitehouse Hotel, in Foregate Street, in an operation organised by Worcester City Council.

The gas supply was not turned off until about 7.10am on Saturday, after which residents were allowed home. However, gas supplies, as well as water and electricity, which had been turned off for safety reasons, were not restored to all nearby homes until later in the day.

Yesterday, police confirmed they were looking at the possibility of "malicious ignition" of the plastic barriers. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the non-emergency number 101, citing incident number 864s/020514.