Vehicle fire spreads terror in quiet street

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Residents of a normally quiet street were lucky to be alive following a three-vehicle blaze right outside their front doors.

One family woke up to the horrific sight of a parked van engulfed in a fireball outside their house in the early hours of Sunday and feared for their lives when it spread to their own cars and blocked off any escape from their front gate.

The incident, which is being treated as wilful fireraising, happened in Hillhead Avenue, Banknock, just before 1.30am.

A householder, who did not want to be named, said: “I heard a big pop like a firework and when I opened my curtains my bedroom was glowing orange and you could feel the heat from the flames.

“I woke up my husband and daughter and said I was going to get the keys for our cars. It took 20 seconds to get the keys and I could hear my daughter screaming ‘your cars are on fire’.

“It’s horrific when you open your front door and see your way out is on fire. The phone lines were burned out so we called the fire service on the mobile phone and they told us we needed to try and get out the house through the back door.

“We couldn’t see because of the smoke and the ash as we walked round the corner. Then the fire service arrived and the police as well. The firefighters were absolutely fantastic and we got superb support from them, coming back in the house afterwards and checking things out to give us peace of mind.”

Both the resident’s cars, a Nissan Almera and Toyota Hilux Invincible, were, like the van, completely destroyed by the blaze.

The resident said: “The fire officer told me the fire started at the front of the vehicle and fuel ran down the road towards our cars – your talking five seconds. That’s two family cars gone in the space of a few seconds.”

The van in question had been rented from ACL by Falkirk Council.

A council spokesman said: “We were informed a rental van we had on hire had been destroyed in a fire. The vehicle was collected by the rental firm and returned to their base.”

There were fears the fire, which also burned a neighbouring householder’s hedge, could have spread further along the street and into houses if the Fire and Rescue Service had not extinguished it so quickly. There was also work being carried out on a gas main further down the street.

Residents believe the blaze was deliberate and stated there had been a few instances of cars being damaged in the street in the recent past and one incident when a motorcycle was tipped over, but nothing as serious as this.

Local councillor Jim Blackwood said: “I am aware there is talk of the fire being started deliberately. I have contacted the local fire chief asking what the results are from their investigations and I await a response.

“This whole episode has been frightening for the residents in the area and I would hope no one started the fire deliberately, however, if this is indeed the case then let us give the police any information that will result in the culprit or culprits being brought to justice.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police in Forth Valley are investigating following a report of wilful fire-raising in the Hillhead Avenue area. The incident happened at around 1.25am on Sunday, November 12 when a white van was set on fire.

“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service attended and quickly extinguished the flames.

“No-one was injured as a result and enquiries into the circumstances are ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact Stirling Police Station via 101, quoting incident number 0349 of November 12.”