Homes evacuated after Billingshurst fuel depot fire

About 100 people were moved from their homes and a main road closed in Sussex, after a fire at a fuel depot near Billingshurst.

Firefighters were called to Four Seasons Fuel Limited at Coneyhurst just before 22:00 BST on Friday and a 200m cordon was established.

At about 22:30 the cordon was extended to 600m and homes within the area were evacuated.

Police said a number of gas canisters were being stored on the site.

Fire officers said about 50 people had to leave their homes, and about 30 of them spent the night at Billingshurst village hall.

Tom Cooper who lives next door to the depot was hosting a party for about 40 people when they were told to leave. The group spent the night at the Selsey Arms pub.

He described the scene: "We saw lots of smoke, the sky was totally orange and a few explosions went off as well."

Frances Duplessis, manager of the Selsey Arms pub said: "We had quite a big group who were evacuated just come into the pub... all very worried and very distressed about what had happened and not sure what was going on."

The cordon was later reduced to 200m.

Paul Berry from Billinghurst Parish Council said that by 08:15 all the residents had left the village hall.

He said: "The Emergency Plan worked very well and I am grateful for the professionalism and teamwork shown".

Road closures

A section of the A272 falls within the cordon and is closed in both directions between the B2139 Coolham Road junction and the Wooddale Lane junction.

Some other local roads in the area are also closed and diversions have been put in place.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said it expected the cordon to remain in place for the rest of the day and possibly into Sunday.

Steve Clack from the fire service said: "We anticipate that fire crews will remain in attendance throughout the day to assist the fire investigation officers as their investigation into the cause of this fire can now begin."

No-one was injured in the fire which is now out.

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