SOUTH Yorkshire families were allowed back in their homes today after being evacuated to escape an inferno at a car mechanic's garage.
Householders from 10 properties on Pitt Street, Darfield, Barnsley, were escorted from their homes in the early hours yesterday after fire engulfed the Total Services Garage.
They were allowed home this morning and the road was re-opened at lunchtime.
Police suspect the blaze could have been started by arsonists.
Four cars were set on fire deliberately within 30 minutes of the blaze, on nearby Oxford Street, Wombwell Lane, Doncaster Road and Sheaf Court.
Police put a 200 metre safety cordon in place around the Pitt Street blaze after firefighters discovered acetylene cylinders at the scene.
The single-storey building collapsed at 6am yesterday, over three hours
after firefighters received their first call to the property.
At one stage, around 30 firefighters from five fire engines were in attendance.
Geoffrey Poppleton, aged 56, was evacuated from his house three doors away from the garage at 2.45am yesterday, along with his wife Rosemary and two sons Mark, 35, and Lee, 27.
Geoffrey said: "The first we knew of any of it was at quarter to three in the morning. Our Lee went downstairs to see why people were banging on our door and he came back up saying we had to get up, get dressed and get out.
"We were standing around on the street waiting until half five, then we were all put up for the night at Tankersley Manor.
"We were allowed back home yesterday just to get some clothes, and then we went to The Sportsman pub on Pitt Street for a while.
"We're just very tired. As far as we know our house is going to be okay but we won't know properly until the fire brigade has finished its inspections."
Neighbours spent another night in the hotel last night while firefighters continued dousing the last embers of the fire.
The incident commander, station manager Mick Mason, said: "There had been some explosions coming from the building, which suffered a structural collapse at around 6am."
The number of fire engines was reduced to two yesterday afternoon, but Pitt Street and neighbouring Blackberry Back Lane remained closed to traffic in both directions.
Investigations into the cause of the blaze are likely to begin after the removal of the safety cordon today.
Witnesses to the garage fire or to any of the four car arsons, which are suspected to be linked, should call Barnsley police on 01226 736 030.
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