Flats hit by fire for second time in just four months

Portsmouth MP praises opposition politician for stirring anti-semitism speech

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PEOPLE living in a block of flats in Gosport targeted by arsonists have spoken of their fear after a second blaze.

Police investigating the fire at Archer House, in The Redan at 3.30am on Sunday, are treating it as suspicous.

The blaze destroyed the bin shed – which has now been taken down by builders – and damaged some of the residents’ storage sheds, which are connected to the external stairwell at Archer House.

And the fire was so powerful that the front door and window of one flat and the windows of other flats were also damaged.

As reported in The News yesterday, the fire knocked out electricity to the 13 flats after it destroyed a power supply, with some residents unable to leave their flats, trapped by the fire next to the stairwell.

Angela Grout, 67, lives in a ground floor flat in Archer House with her husband Brian, 67, and was woken up by neighbours during the fire.

She said: ‘We were woken up by my neighbour, and we were all in blackness.

‘It was frightening, especially when you’ve just woken up. The more we look at it, the more frightening it is as you think what could have happened.

‘The fireman said the whole roof of the flat would have gone.’

And Mrs Grout said this is the second time there has been a fire in the bin shed.

A fire on Sunday, October 28 at 3.27am last year damaged the roof of the bin shed, which has only recently been replaced.

Mrs Grout said she wants the council, which runs some of the flats as sheltered housing, to put in CCTV.

A female resident, who did not want to be named, said she was woken up by the smell of smoke and the flames.

‘I stood inside and saw the flames as by then it had taken hold,’ she said.

‘It was very, very frightening because it is the second time in a few months this has happened, it’s very worrying.’

Chair of the Community Board at Gosport Borough Council, Councillor Graham Burgess, condemned the person responsible for Sunday’s blaze.

He said: ‘I want them caught, I want them locked up, I want them punished.

‘They’re putting people’s lives at risk, they’re completely innocent residents, and if it is proved that it is arson then they have to catch this person.

‘If the fire brigade hadn’t got there, it would have been more serious, lives could have possibly been in danger.

‘If it was arson, as far as I’m concerned, I’d lock them up and throw away the key.

‘We’re looking to see if more security is justified and if it is recommended then we’ll do it.’

He commended the work of council officers in offering places for residents to stay overnight and added that contractors have now supplied residents with temporary heaters.

Two crews from Gosport fire station and one from Fareham were on the scene until 7am on Sunday.

Electricity has now been restored to the properties but the gas supply has not yet been reconnected.

Anyone with information should call Detective Constable Geoff Pike from Gosport CID on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.