The moment the fuel crisis got serious

It was exactly the kind of incident that the fire brigade had been worried about.

Shortly after 6pm on Thursday, 46-year-old Diane Hill was cooking dinner in the kitchen of her home Acomb, York. The oven was on and her two daughters Lauren, 23, and Grace, 18, were sitting in the garden.

Exactly what happened next is still uncertain, but it appears that Ms Hill decided to use a break in her cooking to transfer some petrol from a jerry can into a jug to use in her daughter's car.

As she did so fumes from the fuel were ignited by the gas fire in her oven, triggering an explosion which left her in a critical condition in hospital with 40 per cent burns.

Neighbours described Ms Hill running out of the house still on fire as her daughters ran to phone for an ambulance.

Margot Johnston, 86, said she saw a cloud of smoke coming over the hedge.

"I had been gardening and came in to make myself a cup of tea and I was aware of a cloud of smoke. I thought because it was a lovely day that they must be having a barbecue. Then I noticed there was someone in the garden who seemed to be on fire. Diane had obviously got home and started to cook dinner while decanting petrol."

Peter Hudson, spokesman for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, said paramedics and firefighters arrived there in minutes.

"Her daughter asked her mum for petrol because she had run out. She did not think about the fact the gas cooker was on," he said. "The petrol then went up and she got burnt. Thankfully we were there very quickly."

Ms Hill was taken to Pinderfields Hospital with "serious and significant burns", and was last night said to be in a critical but stable condition.

Mr Hudson warned other members of the public to take extreme care when handling and storing petrol.

"Never bring petrol inside your home," he advised. "Fuel containers must not be stored in living accommodation. If you do smell petrol fumes in a garage, ventilate the area and make sure nobody smokes or turns electrical switches on or off.

"The slightest spark could cause an explosion."