WEST Yorkshire fire bosses have released footage of a huge explosion just yards from firefighters and residents they rescued seconds earlier.

The explosion was caused by interference with an overhead electricity line by thieves attempting to steal the copper conductor.

Now the brigade has joined forces with CE Electric UK, Northern Gas Networks and West Yorkshire Police to warn about the dangers of tampering with electricity and gas equipment.

Earlier this week we reported how thieves cheated death in a botched raid on a Kirklees electricity sub-station.

Police revealed that intruders who tried to steal copper cable caused an explosion.

And they believe the would-be thieves may have suffered burns as they escaped from the sub- station in Hightown Road, Liversedge.

The shocking footage above was captured by the fire engine camera during an incident in Rhodes Street, Castleford, last Friday.

Crews had been called to reports of a small kitchen fire, but when they arrived found a string of small fires in a row of six terraced houses. Firefighters quickly rescued the occupants from all the houses, including two people from upstairs bedrooms using ladders. As the film shows, only seconds later an explosion tore through the row of homes.

Around 30 people were evacuated, two houses were partly demolished and four further houses suffered extensive fire and blast damage. One firefighter was taken to hospital with minor cuts.

Investigations revealed that the blast was caused after a piece of cable was cut from an overhead line. This affected the earthing of the electrical network in the area and resulted in some unusual electrical activity, which affected some of the gas pipes within the properties. This resulted in the fires and explosion.

Ian Bitcon, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) senior operations response officer, said: "If the house had exploded only seconds earlier, there is no doubt in my mind that it would have killed or seriously injured the occupants and the firefighters who were risking their lives to rescue them.

"We can't stress enough how devastating this could have been. Instead, they lost their homes and possessions rather than their lives.

"We have already had one fatality as a result of cable theft. If people continue to tamper with equipment on the electricity network, it is only a matter of time before more people die."

The incident in Castleford last week affected the electricity supply to 63 properties and the gas supplies to 55 properties.

Northern Gas Networks director of health safety and environment Dave Hutchison said: "This footage sends a clear message to metal thieves targeting electrical and gas equipment – don't do it. It is extremely dangerous and threatens lives all for the sake of a few pounds."

"We continue to see a concerning increase in the number of metal related thefts on our gas network which not only endanger lives but disrupt gas supplies and communities.

"Our top priority is safety and we always send an engineer to respond to a gas leak within an hour of it being reported. If you smell gas please don't leave it to someone else to report, call 0800 111 999 immediately – it could be a life-saving call."

DCI Phill Wright, crime manager of Wakefield District Division, said: "The consequences of an act like this could have been extremely serious. I would urge anyone who has any information about cable theft to contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111."