METAL thieves sparked a huge gas blast after stripping a boiler from a derelict property.
Brave resident David Stamp (left), 22, told how he saw smoke coming from the roof of the house, in Sheriff Street, Hartlepool, and kicked the door down, only to be met by two men who ran out of the terraced property and fled the scene.
Just moments later David’s mum Sandra, 44, came outside to see what was going on as the house exploded.
She was covered in blood from cuts to her face and neck after windows from the property were blown out. The force of the blast blew a hole in the roof of the end-terraced house.
Dozens of residents were evacuated from their homes while gas engineers made the property safe.
Both fire and police teams have launched a probe, but it is thought the blast was caused after the theft of a gas boiler.
The drama began at around 12.50pm yesterday, and saw around 100 residents told to leave their homes with a 150ft cordon quickly set up around Sheriff Street.
Neighbouring streets Tankerville Street and Thornville Road were also closed off to traffic as three fire engines, several police cars and paramedic teams raced to the scene.
Hartlepool Borough Council sent emergency planning staff along, and a rest centre was set up for residents in Hartlepool United Supporters’ Club, in Sandringham Road.
A structural engineer from the council was also called to check if the building had remained stable after the explosion.
Once all safety checks had been carried out, the cordon was eventually lifted at around 4pm when people were allowed back into their houses.
Mr Stamp told the Mail he was first on the scene after spotting smoke coming from the roof.
David, who lives in the street with his girfriend, Sarah Scotter, 18, said: “I was just worried someone was inside, I couldn’t really see how bad the fire was I could just see smoke.
“I booted the door down, but as it opened two lads ran past me.
“I could see the glare of fire from upstairs so I rang the fire brigade.”
Mr Stamp said his mother Sandra was standing on the street when the explosion happened.
He added: “She just stood in shock, there was blood everywhere.
“It could have been so much worse. We got her inside her house and tried to settle her down before she was taken away by the paramedics.”
The unemployed mum-of-two, who lives on the street with husband David, 44, and daughter, Laura, 18, was taken to One Life Hartlepool for treatment before returning home last night.
A Northern Gas Networks spokesperson said: “Engineers safely capped-off the gas supply to the affected property, rendering the area completely safe from any further gas-related incident.
“We would like to reassure local residents that the explosion was not the result of any problems with the gas network, it is safe and secure.
“What caused the incident is now the subject of a police investigation.”
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “The explosion is believed to have started as a result of the theft of gas equipment at the property.
“Inquiries are ongoing.”
Jason Wood, watch manager at Stranton Fire Station, in Hartlepool, said: “When we first got there there was smoke coming from the roof, which turned into flames.
“We had to withdraw because of the situation with the leaked gas.
“It was a matter of minutes before we were eventually allowed in and we tackled the blaze from the inside as well as using a water jet from the outside.
“There was extensive damage and we spent around two hours at the scene.”