A major blaze is reported to be underway at Falmouth Docks in Cornwall, UK this morning, with considerable concern for up to 30 gas cylinders at risk of explosion.

Plumes of black smoke are engulfing the dockyard, where it is thought the fire started just before 9am BST.

Reports of explosions involving gas cylinders have already been suggested, while it is thought that a number of acetylene cylinders are at risk of explosion. Reports vary, but it is suggested that between 30-40 acetylene cylinders may be either on fire or at risk of exploding.

The public is being advised not to approach the area, while it is believed that homes and businesses within a 300m radius are being evacuated.

Speculation had initially thought that oxygen cylinders were at threat from the fire, but reports are now surfacing that it is in fact acetylene cylinders that are at risk.

Acetylene cylinders have of course courted the gasworld headlines before, with much conjecture concerning their hazardous nature. All gas cylinders present a risk if exposed to fire, but where acetylene is concerned this can be a heightened sense of caution.

Because of the special potential for a delayed action rupture with acetylene cylinders, observing a safe distance during and after is advised, which can cause serious local disruption due to emergency services establishing a 200m cordon zone around the scene of an incident.

The British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) has recently made significant progress concerning the subject of Acetylene Cylinders in Fires, following a three-year research programme in conjunction with BAM Germany and the UK Fire & Rescue Service.

And BOC opted to halt acetylene cylinder filling at its gases plant in Bristol, UK, last year, following an unexpected acetylene explosion in January 2010.