An underground fire resulted in six West Howe homes being evacuated yesterday.

Emergency services were called to Turbary Park Avenue, close to its junction with Poole Lane, at 11.24am on Sunday.

Residents told the Daily Echo that lights in their properties were flickering before they saw smoke billowing from a manhole cover in the road.

Power was still out in the area last night and roads around the site are expected to be closed for some time while the electricity company 'makes the area safe'.

Fifty homes were without power on Sunday, and expected to stay that way until at least 7pm.

Picture by Tony Kelly

Group manager David Graham confirmed that the affected houses were evacuated after a fault with wiring in an underground junction box. 

He said this has resulted in appliances indoors overheating and causing several small fires, which were quickly extinguished by the six crews at the scene. 

The Red Cross provided refreshments for the evacuated residents.         

Dorset Fire and Rescue Service is handing the case to the electricity board for further investigation. 

One woman was taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

All aproaches to the junction are closed, including Turbary Park Avenue at the junctions of Poole Lane, Garage Roundabout and Kimber Road, with long delays around the retail park.

A spokesman said: “Eight people have been evacuated while emergency services and the electricity company make the area safe and I understand that the power is out in the area while this takes place.

"This remedial work may take some time to complete and I’d urge motorists to find alternative routes wherever possible. I’d like to thank members of the public for their patience.”

A spokesperson for SSE confirmed that 50 homes have been left without power as a result of the incident, including residents in Frost Avenue, Frost Gardens, Poole Lane, Turbary Park Avenue, Ringwood Road, Nutley Way and Jethcote Road.

He added that there is a fault with a link box, which is similar to a larger-scale fuse box. Initially the fault affected seven or eight properties, he said, but following investigation, they had to turn off the power to take out the link box and replace it. He estimated that the power is due to be restored by 7pm.

An SSE welfare van is heading to the area which will provide hot food and drink and charging facilities for phones and tablets belonging to residents affected by the power cuts.

“Our priority is to make sure that everyone is as safe as possible, before we investigate the cause of the fault. We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience this has caused and we want to reassure them that we are working as quickly as possible to get the power back on.”

"I saw the flames coming up the path"

Residents were left without power for several hours following the fire on Turbary Park Avenue.

Paula Davies, 46, said that she saw the flames in the road and went to call the fire service, before she realised it had spread to her own home.

She added: "I saw the flames come up in the path and we had a power surge as I was using the microwave and then smoke was coming from the cupboard where the fuse box is.

"Luckily we were in the house at the time or it could have been a lot worse. We were told that it was a fault with the electricity box underground in the road and that the box had completely melted. 

"We went to the Red Cross Fire and Emergency Support Service van as we were frozen and my feet were like ice as we had no heating."

Paula said that they were being provided with emergency accommodation overnight but will have to review the situation again today.

Another nearby resident, Vicky, 32, said that she was taken to Poole Hospital by ambulance as a precautionary measure as she is seven-months-pregnant.

She added: "We saw the smoke from the house opposite and then I went downstairs and saw our whole kitchen was filled with smoke and one of the gas pipes was glowing red."

She said that she went outside to call the firefighters over, who rushed inside. "I was taken to hospital and checked over. The baby has been checked and everything is fine. When we came back, we sat in our car with the heating on for a while and then we went to the Red Cross van."

Vicky said that as the house smelt strongly of smoke, they have been provided with emergency accommodation in a B&B overnight.

Mark Fox, 48, a dad of two children under five, said that he was laying flooring at the time of the power cut.

"I've been building our house for the past two years and the electric went out as I was laying our parquet flooring. My wife, Karen, and I have a little five-and-a-half year old and a two year old, so took them to Giggles, which is round the corner, so they don't get cold.

"It's lucky that it was on a Sunday and during the day, as I don't think I would have been happy if it had happened at 2am in the morning."