Two casualties were taken to hospital with serious injuries and a firefighter was also admitted with smoke inhalation after a gas explosion caused what was described as an “inferno” at the building in Redwood Grove on Monday (4 July).
Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service described the blaze on Redwood Grove as a “major incident”.
Emergency services responded to the fire at the three-storey block of 20 flats, which caused the building’s roof to collapse.
The area was closed, with people asked to avoid it and nearby residents told to keep doors and windows shut.
East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) said there had been three hospital admissions, one of whom was airlifted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital with leg injuries.
The other two, one of whom was a firefighter, were taken to Bedford South Wing Hospital with smoke inhalation.
The firefighter has since returned home, emergency services said.
A local resident in Bedford said they saw a person jumping from a second-floor window to escape the burning building on Redwood Grove.
“I heard the explosion from my house round the corner,” the resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told the PA news agency.
“I walked to town and saw the flames and also witnessed someone jump from the second-floor window whilst flames were blaring out.”
What have the emergency services said?
Bedfordshire Police chief superintendent John Murphy confirmed the death.
He said: “Very sadly we know that at least one person has passed away in the explosion today.
“There is a possibility that there will be more fatalities discovered in the coming days as we continue to search through the scene and a number of people, as my colleague from the fire services has identified, were injured as well today.”
The fire service said in a statement: “Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service are currently in attendance at a major gas explosion on Redwood Grove, Bedford.
“There are currently six appliances, two water carriers, an incident command unit at the scene.
“Please avoid the area and keep windows and doors closed.”
Bedfordshire Police said police, fire and ambulance service all remained at the scene shortly after midday on Monday.
“(The fire) has engulfed the whole building and caused a large portion of the roof to collapse,” it said in a statement.
“An emergency assistance centre has been set up by Bedford Borough Council, at the John Bunyan Centre in Bedford, for people who have been evacuated and need support.
“An adjacent block of flats has also been evacuated and we are working as quickly as we can to get people back into their homes as quickly as possible.”
An EEAS spokesman said: “We were called at 9.33am today to a significant fire at a block of flats in Redwood Grove, Bedford.
“Three ambulances, the hazardous area response team, a tactical commander, three operations managers and the Magpas Air Ambulance were sent to the scene.
“One person was airlifted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital for treatment for leg injuries, while two people, one of whom was a firefighter, were conveyed to Bedford Hospital South Wing with smoke inhalation.”
Nearby Shackleton Primary School was evacuated as a result of the fire, with headteacher Andy George telling our sister title Bedford Today: “Following the fire in the Redwood Grove area of Bedford earlier today, pupils at Shackleton Primary have been sent home due to the school’s proximity to the incident.
“All children are safe and the school is working with the emergency services. The school expects to re-open tomorrow.”
Police said the “working assumption” about what sparked the fire was gas-related but that an investigation had been launched to formally establish the cause.