AN explosion ripped through a Farnham newsagents as a late-night blaze took hold in the shop.

And stricken residents living above the shop were screaming for help as the blaze intensified.

The dramatic account was given to the Herald by eyewitness Tommy Ormerod, who was working nearby at the time of the ferocious blaze.

Bar manager Mr Ormerod was on duty at The Mulberry pub, opposite the Station Hill Stores on Station Hill, when the fire took hold on Saturday.

He was working in the pub and said: “At about 11.15pm we heard an explosion and noticed the blinds that go across the shop had been blown out and the sign had fallen off. I walked outside to see what happened and we saw the fire had started.

“The bouncer on duty asked if we could quickly get a fire extinguisher, so I ran inside and got one.

“But by the time I got back out, the whole thing was ablaze.”

He said the flames took hold very quickly. “It took about 20 seconds,” he said.

The bouncer, on duty from Tango Security, phoned the emergency services.

Police who attended the scene of devastation evacuated nearby residents. including those living in the flats above the shop. No injuries were reported.

A large crowd gathered to watch firefighters tackle the blaze and videos shared by onlookers showed large flames bursting out of the shop front.

Explosions, believed to be caused by gas canisters, could also be heard from inside the store.

Mr Ormerod said: “My first reaction was to try to get everyone inside, as there were people still in the building who were screaming to get out.

“There wasn’t much I could physically do, though.”

Mr Ormerod said the shop owner was quickly on the scene.

Pub staff tried to keep everyone calm.

Injuries were slight, though, he said – including one person was trying to get his cat in a box to get out the building who was scratched by his frightened pet.

“When I first heard the explosion, I had no idea what it was,” Mr Ormerod said.

“My first thoughts were it could be either a gas explosion or a terrorist attack – I had no idea.

“At about 11.45pm we had to evacuate the pub, which involved was about 120 to 150 people.”

Police closed local roads but the railway station remained open and accessible via diversions.

Six fire appliances and 44 firefighters from Surrey and Hampshire attended, as well as South East Coast Ambulance Service and a Hazardous Area Response Team.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service posted a series of updates to Twitter on Saturday, ending with confirmation shortly after 2.30am that “the incident is now being scaled down and some of the fire crews are leaving the scene.”

Mr Ormerod said: “If it had happened four or five hours later it would have been much worse, because none of us would have been here to raise the alarm.”

He confirmed no damage was caused to the pub or the nearby shops.

“It looks like the fire was contained to the newsagents,” he said.

The shop remains closed and is boarded up. It is not known when it will reopen.