Man held by police on suspicion of arson after blaze

120521-271 FIRE HAVANT (EB) MRW 13/2/2012''The scene of a fire in flats above Cubitt and West's offices on the corner of South Street and East Street which happened at around 0500 hrs on Monday morning // today 13/2/2012 // ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (120521-271)
120521-271 FIRE HAVANT (EB) MRW 13/2/2012''The scene of a fire in flats above Cubitt and West's offices on the corner of South Street and East Street which happened at around 0500 hrs on Monday morning // today 13/2/2012 // ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (120521-271)
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POLICE have arrested a man following an arson attack on a block of flats.

Two families were led to safety after a sofa was set on fire in the communal stairwell of Church View, a three-storey building in South Street, Havant.

It happened at 5am yesterday and firefighters from Havant and Emsworth were called to tackle the blaze.

Although it did not take long to put the fire out police closed South Street until 6.30am while the Arson Task Force – a joint operation between police and the fire service – investigated.

The cause is still being investigated but a Havant man has been arrested on suspicion of arson. No-one was injured.

David Wurthman, landlord of the Old House at Home pub, opposite the flats, said: ‘The first we knew about it was when our cleaner came in and asked us what had happened.

‘The road was all closed off and there were police vans out there.

‘When we realised there had been a fire we called our friend over the road to see if it was his place but it wasn’t and he was fine, thank goodness. We’ve never had anything like that down here before. I hope whoever lives there is okay.’

Staff from First Wessex housing association, which owns the flats, arrived to repair the front door which had been damaged by firefighters making their way into the property.

Carol Williams, operations director for First, said: ‘Members of our team have been at Church View since early this morning and it has been their priority to work with the fire service to make sure the area is safe following the fire and to reassure residents in the building.

‘The fire alarm system worked well this morning, and the fire was detected and put out very quickly.

‘Thankfully no-one was hurt and there is no fire damage to the building, which means the residents can stay in their homes.

‘There is some smoke damage which we will be rectifying as soon as possible.

‘Regular checks are in place to make sure that communal areas are kept clear of residents’ belongings.

‘First Wessex has an ongoing commitment to raising awareness of fire safety and of the dangers of blocking communal areas in our homes.’

Anyone with information should call Havant CID on 101.