Elderly people were evacuated from a residential care home after a van containing a cylinder of an explosive gas caught fire in its car park.

Four fire engines from Epsom and Leatherhead were called to the blaze in the car park of Rosebery Lodge, in Dorking Road, Epsom, at 4pm yesterday.

The van belonged to workmen on the site who were using a generator inside it to do some welding which led to the fire, according to an Epsom fireman.

He said matters were complicated by a cylinder containing acetylene gas which was also inside the van. The gas can explode if heated by fire.

The fireman said: "When acetylene cylinders are involved in a fire they erupt into massive fireballs.

"They have a 200m range when heated by fire and they explode."

The firefighter said 25 residents of the home were evacuated to Epsom Hospital opposite where they stayed until the cylinder had cooled down.

People in the surrounding homes were also evacuated.

The fire brigades spent four hours at the incident.