A man has told of how he feared for his life when a hellish blast of fire emerged from a manhole just 15 feet away from him as he walked down the street.
Shiraz Nawaz, 36, was strolling along the pavement when he heard buzzing from the ground just a few feet behind him.
He turned around just in time to see a massive plume of thick black smoke followed by huge orange flames shooting up from an open manhole.
The father-of-two managed to grab his phone just in time to film the astonishing incident on Stratford Road in Shirley, Solihull.
His footage shows plumes of dark smoke billowing up out of the charred ground, followed by repeated blasts of flames, reaching the top of the nearby shop fronts.
Nobody was hurt in the incident after Shiraz evacuated the nearby takeaway, told them to turn off their gas supply, and called the fire service.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze, which they said was caused by a fire in an underground link box – which distributes electricity – below the manhole.
Shiraz, a former gas engineer who now fits kitchens and bathrooms, said: “To think that I had just walked over that.
“The flames kept shooting up – maybe five or six times.
“I’m a building contractor so I knew that when I heard the noises it was something to do with electrics. It was like a buzzing.
“I knew what it was but I didn’t expect flames to come shooting out straight away or anything like that.
“I’m so lucky I didn’t get burned. I had just walked over it – I think I used up one of my lives right there.”
He was just metres away when he grabbed his phone to record the fireballs before stopping to dial 999.
“I got my phone out because I heard the actual noise and I think I saw a flash,” he said.
“I think I managed to get it on film just as the first real flames came up.
“It looked like it was coming from a manhole cover. It was quite shocking.
“I feel very lucky. Had it literally been a few seconds earlier I would have been walking right over it.
“I stopped filming because I felt guilty and I knew I had to call the fire service.
“By the time they got there lots of people were around.
“I told the guys in the shop to switch off the gas and get everyone out.
“I told the guys from the shop to go around the other side of the flames and stop any unassuming person from walking down the road while I stayed on the other side.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, and I have been in the building trade.
“The guy in the shop grabbed me a couple of burgers after everything, so I guess it had a happy ending.”
FLAMES 2A spokesman for West Midlands Fire Service said: “We had a number of calls about about it – probably five or six, maybe a couple more.
“It involved a fire in an underground electrical link box. The electrical supply was isolated by Western Power.
“Power was isolated to surrounding homes and premises for four hours.
“Three people were evacuated from one of the properties.
“We used a CO2 extinguisher and a hose real with foam, because it was an electrical fire.
“It was accidental.”