Man flees from ‘arson’ blaze at beach-front flat

Taxi driver assaulted by youth with knife in Southsea

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POLICE believe an arsonist may have been responsible for a blaze at a seafront flat.

The fire ripped through the bedroom of a ground floor flat in Bembridge Drive, Hayling Island.

The bedroom belonged to a 17-year-old girl, who was not there at the time, and her landlord Steve Ayres, says he dreads to think what would have happened if she was.

Another lodger, a 59-year-old man, awoke to the smell of smoke and called the fire brigade before alerting Mr Ayres, who was staying with his partner in a house opposite.

The lodger was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation but was released later that day.

Mr Ayres said: ‘The girl (lodger) had left the bedroom window open and the police think someone went down the drive, round the back of the flat and put something through the window to start the fire.

‘The police have taken the window away to check for forensics. I’ve boarded it up now.

‘The fire was put out quite quickly and it was contained to the bedroom. I don’t know what would have happened if the girl had been there -– it doesn’t bear thinking about.

‘I’m fuming about it. I can’t believe someone would do something like this deliberately.

‘I don’t know if this flat was deliberately targeted.’

The fire brigade were called to the flat at 4.45am. The fire was quickly put out. The joint police and fire service Arson Task Force were called out and a police officer stood guard at the front of the property all day.

Mr Ayres, a 49-year-old landscape gardener, added: ‘If my lodger had not woken up when he did because he smelled smoke the chief fire officer told him he would have been killed.

‘The fire would’ve spread to the flat on the other side and the one above.’

A report into the fire, which happened in the early hours of Sunday, is due in the next few days.

Anyone with any information about the blaze should contact Waterlooville CID on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.