POLICE are hunting arsonists who threw a ‘petrol bomb’ into a digger – and narrowly avoided causing an explosion.
The machine was parked outside AA Silencers vehicle repair workshop, in Tean Road, Cheadle, on Wednesday, when the missile was launched.
Witnesses claim the Takeuchi digger, which was parked close to a hydraulic oil drum, burst into flames.
But firefighters from Leek were able to bring the blaze under control before the flames spread.
Company director Simon Grocott, from Meir Park, who runs the firm with brother Adam, said: “The digger was there because we have some contractors in at the moment doing a bit of work for us. We are creating a new car park outside.
“They have been here since Tuesday and the work was only supposed to take until the weekend, but it might run into next week now this has happened.
“Fortunately the workers had all clocked off at about 5.30pm so nobody was hurt.
“But there are houses nearby so if the flames would have reached the oil drum it could have been a completely different story.
“It would have been a disaster, so I’m happy the police are taking it seriously.”
The digger belongs to contractors Roe Construction and is estimated to have cost £20,000.
The 36-year-old added: “Cheadle is normally a really quiet place, things like this don’t normally happen.
“I’m not sure why it’s happened, maybe someone has a vendetta and isn’t happy with us or the work we are doing with the car park, I just don’t know.”
Firefighters spent 20 minutes trying to bring the blaze under control. A spokesman said: “We were called in at just after 9pm on Wednesday, March 5, to reports of a digger on fire.
“We sent one unit from Leek who found a fire in the open. Firefighters used one hose reel jet to distinguish the blaze.
“On investigation, it was established that the fire was started deliberately.”
Witnesses to the blaze, or anyone who saw anything suspicious before the fire, are now being urged to contact the police.
A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: “We are appealing for witnesses after an arson incident in Cheadle.
“We were called by colleagues from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue at around 9.30pm on Wednesday, after a digger was set alight on land off Baddeley Street, Cheadle.
“The fire is believed to have been started deliberately using an accelerant.
“Inquiries into the incident are ongoing and we would appeal for witnesses, or anyone with information, to call PC Pete Titley at Staffordshire Police on 101, quoting incident number 711 of March 5.
“Alternatively, they can contact independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.”