Fire extinguisher causes explosion scare

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By Kirsty Topping

Remek Stepien (left) and Dariusz Stepniak in the attic where the device was found

A CITY street was cordoned off for more than two hours – because of a vintage fire extinguisher.

The Second World War device was discovered in the attic of a former nursing home in Edinburgh last Friday.

Police were forced to cordon off the street until the Royal Logistic Corp could remove it and take it for destruction.

The Selfac fire extinguisher, believed to have been made in 1941, consists of a cardboard container holding bicarbonate of soda and a central explosive charge.

Designed to be hung in roof spaces, they contained fires by dispersing a fire retardant powder over the flames after being triggered by intense heat.

Remek Stepien, 31, stumbled on the device while working on renovating the house with a team of builder.

The electrician said he had no idea what it was until looking it up on the internet.

The 1940s device was designed to contain fires by covering them in a flame retardant powder

“I was surprised to see something like this,’ he said.

“It was about the size of a football and I detached it from the roof.

“Later someone looked it up on the internet and it said online to call the bomb disposal team. “

He added:

“I like history and because this is from the Second World War it’s very interesting to me. “

A colleague said:

“We knew the bomb team was coming but we didn’t expect them to close off the whole street. “

A spokesperson for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service said discoveries of old fire extinguishers were not uncommon but wanted they posed a genuine risk of exploding.

“We have dealt with these before and they can be highly unstable and can explode,’ she said.

“Sometimes people have held on to them because of their historical value but often they don’t realize that over time something happens to the material inside which can make them combust if moved or treated vigorously.

“They are definitely hazardous and there has been evidence of them exploding in the past.

“That’s why we have taken action before because you don’t know what reaction you are going to get. “

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