Homes were evacuated in Tooting this week after a stray firework sparked a fire that ruptured a gas pipe.

Around 20 residents had to leave their homes just after midnight on Monday (November 9) when a fire broke out in a rear garden outbuilding in Church Lane, SW17.

The fire caused extensive damage to the structure and damaged a gas pipe, sparking fears of an explosion.

Four fire engines and around 25 firefighters were called to the scene, in which no one was reported to be injured. 

Station Officer James Leach, who was at the scene, said:

"On arrival the shed was fully light and fire was spreading up the external side of the house and entering the eaves of the roof.

"Thermal imaging cameras were used by crews wearing breathing apparatus inside the loft of the property and by crews externally to help identify where the fire had spread to inside the house. 

"An external gas pipe was damaged by the fire and we worked with partners from the Gas Authority to ensure that the supply was isolated.

"We urge people to think twice before having fireworks displays or building bonfires in your garden. Despite our warning, if you do have a fireworks display always make sure fireworks are clear of any buildings, sheds, fences and hedges."

Wandsworth council’s emergency team arranged for a nearby community centre to be opened so that residents could be offered shelter.

The rest centre remained open until just before 2am when the fire brigade announced it was safe for them to return to their homes.

The council’s housing spokesman Cllr Kim Caddy said:

“Our emergency team is on standby 24 hours a day to react to incidents like this when residents need urgent help and support. The team deals with around 45,000 calls a year in response to all kinds of unforeseen incidents which can include fires, floods and gas leaks, dangerous buildings, chemical spills and even unexploded wartime bombs.

“Fortunately these residents were able to return home reasonably quickly but it must have been a worrying time for them. I’m just pleased that we were able to offer them support while the fire brigade dealt with the fire and gas leak."

Residents who need emergency out of hours help can call the council’s emergency control team on (020) 8871 7490.