Arson probe after flats destroyed in overnight blaze

Police in London Road, Hilsea. Picture: Mitchell Walker

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An arson investigation is underway after a fire ripped through a building.

Emergency services were called to a block of flats in Botley Road, Park Gate, last night, as a flat fire spread to the rest of the building.

The fire in Botley Road, Park Gate. Picture: Portchester fire station

The fire in Botley Road, Park Gate. Picture: Portchester fire station

Firefighters spent five hours tackling the blaze, with ambulance crews and the police also called to the scene.

Roger Webb, 71, lives next to the block of flats.

He told how an explosion caused jets of flames to soar into the air.

He said: ‘All of a sudden I heard this massive explosion, followed by a bright orange glow.

Firefighters and police at the scene of the fire in Botley Road, Park Gate. Picture: SCAS HART

Firefighters and police at the scene of the fire in Botley Road, Park Gate. Picture: SCAS HART

‘I looked out of my window and the whole thing was ablaze.

‘I ran upstairs to see what was happening and could see that the damage was significant.

‘The flames were going around the flat but then started to lick below the balcony, then spread to the rest of the building.

‘Once the fire hit the roof there were jets of flames shooting three feet up into the air.’

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service statement said: ‘A block of flats has been severely damaged by a fire that swept through the upper half of the building.

‘No-one was hurt in the fire at the Park Gate block but two first-floor flats and the roof of the building have been badly affected by the flames.

‘However, thanks to the work of the fire crews, the front halves of the properties have been saved.

‘At its peak, around 40 firefighters tackled the fire, using jets, hose reels and breathing apparatus. The cause of the fire will now be investigated.’

A firefighter from Fareham fire station says that the flats have been completely destroyed.

It’s thought at least eight people fled the blaze.

He said: ‘We got the call at 10pm, and were there until 3am getting the fire under control – it spread to pretty much all of the flats.

‘We had eight pumps at the incident, including crews from Southsea, Cosham and Portchester.

‘The flats were completely destroyed and are unlivable, so the residents will sadly need to be rehoused – but this is an incident that could have been much worse.

Now, an investigation is underway to find out how the fire started and how it spread.

The spokesman said: ‘We’re back again today and the incident is under investigation.

‘Fire investigation and the police will be looking into what happened.

‘Fortunately, there were no injuries and two dogs, two rabbits and two goldfish were also rescued from the blaze.’

A Hampshire police spokeswoman said: ‘Officers were called at just before 10.30pm on Saturday, 9 June to a fire at a block of flats on Botley Road, Park Gate.

‘The incident is being treated as arson and investigations are ongoing.

‘Anyone with information should contact Hampshire Constabulary on 101 quoting 44180215549.’