A SOUTHAMPTON church boss has praised the work of firefighters who helped tackle a blaze near to their building.

Crews from Southampton and Eastleigh rushed to the fire in the cellar of Stella Maris Hall, next to St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bugle Street.

One witness said they heard an explosion shortly before their electrics failed.

Firefighters arrived and people in neighbouring buildings were evacuated.

Now Anne Wheeler, the secretary of the combined St Joseph and St Edmund Churches, which owns Stella Maris Hall, has praised the reaction of firefighters.

She said: “The emergency services were fantastic.

“They were here in two ticks and everything was sorted really fast.”

Ms Wheeler added that the cellar was partly smoke damaged, but said there was no serious or structural damage.

Firefighters from St Mary’s, Hightown, Totton and Eastleigh were called to the church around 8.30pm on Monday evening.

On arrival, crews found smoke coming from the basement below Stella Maris Hall.

A spokesperson for Hampshire Fire and Rescue said the smoke was from a fuse box in the building’s cellar.

Equipped with jets and breathing apparatus, firefighters extinguished the small blaze and used ventilation equipment to clear out the smoke.