A FARMER had a lucky escape after a gas explosion ripped through a farm building.

John Arrowsmith turned on the light in an outbuilding on his farm in Alltami yesterday morning and the building exploded.

Nearby homes were evacuated and a 200 metre exclusion zone was set up around the farm amid fears of further blasts. An investigation into the cause of the explosion is now under way.

He said: “When I went in the building to switch the light on in the workshop it just blew up. I thought I was a goner.”

Mr Arrowsmith, who miraculously escaped without injury, said Wales and West Utilities had been monitoring a gas main on his land for the past two-and-a-half weeks.

“The gas board has been here every day monitoring it,” he said.

“I believe it’s been leaking and they have been getting very high readings.”

Nearby residents were evacuated from their homes shortly before noon amid fears gas canisters stored inside the building could explode.

North Wales Police said the occupants of four homes which back on to the farm – a total of 13 people – were evacuated.

A 200-metre exclusion zone was set up around the farm and the A494 Mold Road was closed in both directions. Diversions were put in place by Flintshire Council.

A spokesman for North Wales Fire and Rescue Service said firefighters had to use “defensive” firefighting tactics to cool down the gas cylinders.

Four fire crews from Mold, Buckley and Deeside were called to the scene shortly after 8am.

By 1.30pm the fire service said they had the blaze under control, but remained at the scene applying copious amounts of water to one of the gas cylinders, which had been affected by the fire. They left just before 6pm.

The building was used to store heavy machinery and equipment as well as three propane and two acetylene cylinders.

Mr Arrowsmith is now counting the cost of the damage.

He added: “We managed to drag a few things out and save them, but I’ve lost a lot of machinery.”

Resident Liz Berry, who has lived in her home backing on to the farm for 13 years and was one of those evacuated, said: “I left my house at about 8am and everything was fine, but when I got back at about 8.30am the fire brigade was here.

“It’s worrying because we didn’t know whether it would damage our properties and I have a gas tank in my back garden.

“We want to find out what’s happened.”

Wales and West Utilities is now investigating the cause of the explosion.

A spokesman said: “We received reports of a fire in Alltami, Mold and immediately dispatched a team to investigate.

“The fire is now part of an ongoing investigation while we determine the cause.

“We can confirm that a team from Wales and West Utilities has been working at the farm recently monitoring a gas main, but the fire is currently under investigation so until the cause is determined we are unable to comment any further.”