A huge fire which destroyed six luxury apartments was started after a pensioner used a red hot paint stripper to defrost a freezer, sources claim.

The 85-year-old is believed to have been blasted across a kitchen when the electrical appliance exploded at a property in affluent Thorntonhall on the edge of Glasgow.

He suffered smoke inhalation but was otherwise uninjured and police have said he won’t be charged.

Residents at six flats – which can change hands for up to a quarter of a million pounds - had to be evacuated but they also avoided serious injury.

Evening Times:

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service sent eight fire fighters to the three-storey block when a “major fire” took hold, but they also had to flee amid fears the structure could collapse.

It is understood the burned out building in the leafy South Lanarkshire village may now have to be completely demolished.

The drama unfolded on April 29 but details about the cause of the blaze are only now beginning to emerge.

The pensioner is understood to have been using a heat gun designed for removing paint and gloss from walls and doors.

The device - which can be picked up at DIY stores for as little as £30 - can reach temperatures of 400C.

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Safety guides advise users that they can cause highly flammable items to catch fire.

Freezers often contain insulation which, when ignited, causes fires that spread quickly, giving off toxic gases.

A source close to the investigation, who asked not to be named, said: “He was using a paint stripping device, which we would refer to as a heat gun, to defrost the freezer.

“There are components in fridge freezers which can explode. They are quite dangerous, particularly if certain devices are used to defrost them.

“He’s very, very fortunate to have escaped without serious injury. It was a major fire.”

It understood it could be weeks before the insurance company makes a decision on the building but an insider at South Lanarkshire Council revealed it could be flattened.

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They may have to demolish it,” said the source, who asked not to be named. “It’s completely unsafe. So it’s uninhabitable.

“The residents are absolutely devastated. They have lost everything. Many are now staying with relatives. They are scattered all over the place.

“And we don’t know how long it will take to rebuild the flats – it could be years.”

A contractor at the site added: “We’ve taken the roof off and we're clearing the debris so that we can properly investigate - but there's a possibility it will have to be demolished.”

Neighbours rallied round when residents were evacuated late on Friday April 29 and many took shelter in nearby Thorntonhall Tennis Club.

Jeff McGee, who lives next to the building in Bishop’s Gate, said: “It was all older people who lived there. Half of them retired doctors, I think. Fortunately no one was hurt but there’s all the upheaval. It's pretty grim, really. Very sad for all those affected.”

He added: “We've actually been feeding two cats that belonged to a woman that lived there. They were missing for a while. The fire service said they didn't find any charred bodies of animals so the woman's daughter leafleted the houses nearby and asked if we’d seen them.

“We started putting out cat food and they appeared. But we haven't been able to catch them yet.”

Evening Times:

A spokesman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service issued a warning yesterday.

He said: “Every year people die and are injured in their homes as a result of fires caused by heating appliances and it is important people are aware of their potential dangers.

“Any type of portable heating device can start a fire if it is misused. We ask that people carefully follow the manufacturer’s operating and maintenance instructions upon use and avoid placing heating appliances too close to anything that could catch fire.”

It is understood police spoke to the pensioner but will take no further action.

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “There was no criminality established with regards to this incident.”