ABOUT 80 firefighters were called to tackle a flat fire above a shop.
But the fire ripped through the first, second and third floors of the flat, causing substantial damage.
Twelve fire crews, including eight from West Sussex along with crews from Southsea, Havant, Emsworth and Cosham, were called out to tackle the blaze at about 9pm on Friday.
Firefighters used an aerial platform to reach the top of the building.
Entrances to East Street were cordoned off with red and white tape and police stood guard to stop people passing as the crews worked late into the night to put the fire out.
It is believed the blaze was caused by faulty electrics and the fire is not being treated as suspicious.
However a full investigation is yet to be carried out.
Gary Towson from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘The fire is believed to have broken out in the electrics box on the first floor.
‘The owners were alerted by a smoke alarm and they were able to get out, but the fire travelled up in voids and ended up going up to the second floor, into the roof space and breaking through the top.
‘There is extensive smoke and heat damage inside.’
Eye witness Josh Pulleybank, 21, from Church Farm Lane, East Wittering, said: ‘I could see flames and hot ash coming out of the top of the building.
‘Tiles from the roof were popping off because of the heat.
‘There were a lot of fire engines down here.’
The Red Cross Emergency Community Support Service was also drafted in.