By Michael MacLeod & Shaun Milne
More than 50 homes in West Lothian were evacuated tonight (tues) after a massive blaze ripped through a builders’ yard.
Fire-fighters tackling the incident ordered a 300 meter cordon to be setup around the site in Armadale for fears of an explosion.
Several acetylene cylinders – used for supplying gas to welding or cutting gear – were thought to be stored on the site.
A building known locally as the old chapel was also said to have almost completely collapsed.
There were no reports of injury.
Ron Dingwall, chair of the History of Armadale Association, said: “It’s called the old chapel but was actually a school which was used on Sundays for services at the start of the 20th century.
“It is surrounded by buildings which are precious to us as a community including the old miner’s welfare club.
“As far as I knew it was derelict, but went on fire a few years ago too.”
Fire-fighters were called to the scene at High Academy Street at its junction with James Street at around 3pm.
Police and officials from West Lothian Council were also drafted in to help seal off the area and evacuate residents to safety.
Two schools are also in the exclusion zone and could remain closed tomorrow (wed).
A spokesman for Lothian & Borders Fire & Rescue Service said safety was of paramount importance and warned the site could be sealed off for some time.
They added: “We have around 40 fire-fighters from six crews tackling the incident.”
Huge plumes of black spoke were seen for miles around while traffic diversions were put in place to steer people away from the scene.
Local blogsite armadale.org.uk featured pictures of the unfolding drama.
But the biggest challenge was getting close enough to the gas cylinders to direct water on them constantly to prevent them igniting.
Even if successful, they will have to be cooled for at least a day before anyone can even consider moving them.
A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police are currently assisting Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue at a fire in Armadale.
“The building contains potentially flammable material.
“As a result, residents in Mount Pleasant, James Street and High Academy Street have been evacuated from their homes.
“An investigation into the circumstances will be carried out in due course.”
There was no response from West Lothian Council.