ARSONISTS must stop putting lives at risk, according to the leader of Gosport Borough Council.
Cllr Mark Hook spoke out after families were put in danger and forced to flee their homes after a blaze ripped through a former pub.
Twelve people – including a number of children – escaped the flats at what used to be The White Swan, in Forton Road, after flames tore through a communal area on the ground floor.
As the blaze took hold, a number of other people scrambled on to the roof through a window before getting down themselves.
Philip Dix, 39, a manager of a go-kart track, was among them.
He said: ‘We woke up and there was smoke everywhere. It was more smouldering than flames but we didn’t know that at that moment, especially as it was 3am.
We are very concerned about people’s safety, and lives shouldn’t be put at risk. We should do everything we can to protect the community.Councillor Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council
‘Who did it or for what reason I don’t know. The fire service was good and so was the ambulance service.
‘It was scary until we worked out what was happening and we got some buckets of water and put it out while we were waiting for the fire brigade to arrive.’
Despite the fire being put out, residents were trapped as smoke engulfed the stairs until firefighters got in and ventilated the building.
And there was more drama after the incident – which unfolded at 2.55am yesterday – as firefighters were sent to two separate car fires, which are under investigation.
The Forton fire is also being treated as a potential arson attack.
Cllr Hook called for people to stop putting the lives of others in danger.
He said: ‘We’re very concerned about people’s safety and lives shouldn’t be put at risk. We should do everything we can to protect the community.’
The incidents come after arsonists went on a spree of destruction and torched four cars – including a police vehicle – in Foster Road and Linden Grove last month.
Cllr Hook believes the community must step up to help stem the rising tide of attacks.
He said: ‘What I would ask, is for the public to be vigilant.
‘If they see anything suspicious, please call it in, rather than allow it to happen. We would rather the police investigate something, and stop or deter it.
‘We need to look at this from a community point of view, because it’s the community that is affected by it.
‘Don’t hesitate to call it in. We can’t allow these people to ruin our communities and society.’
POLICE say they are not linking the fire at the former Gosport pub with other incidents that have happened in the town.
A force statement said: ‘An investigation is under way into the cause of the fire, but we are not linking this to any other incidents at the current time.’
Anyone with information that may be relevant to the investigation, or who saw something suspicious is asked to contact DC Jacqueline McMurchie at Fratton Police Station on 101, quoting 44160425526.
Alternatively, contact hampshire.police.uk/internet/do-it-online/online-forms/message-for-officer.html