POLICE believe a fire that broke out at a Southampton home was started deliberately.
Students returned to their property yesterday morning to find most of their belongings had been lost in the blaze that caused extensive damage throughout the house in Milton Road.
Initial inquiries suggest fires had been started deliberately in a number of locations within the property.
Neighbours raised the alarm after seeing smoke billowing out from windows of the mid-terrace property just after 7am yesterday.
At first it was thought the three tenants were inside but it later emerged they had spent the night away from the property.
Nearby resident Karina Rudkin, 38, said: “It was awful to see. We thought there was someone in at the time but they came back later in the morning and you could hear one of them really upset and crying that all their stuff was gone.
“It was a bit surreal to see something like that on your doorstep, really quite scary.” Her son, eight-year-old Cieron, said: “I was first up and saw all the blue flashing lights. There was at least three fire engines and tonnes of smoke just coming out of all the windows.”
The immediate neighbouring property was evacuated as smoke began to spread. Toby Sell, 21, who lives several doors along on the road that is mainly student-rented accommodation, said: “The first I heard was that there was a fireman in our house just checking the roof space.
“It is quite a shock to have this happen so close by. Horrible for the people that live there.” A joint investigation by Hampshire Fire and Rescue and Hampshire police’s Arson Taskforce is now under way.
Det Con Gavin Jordan said: “It appears that there were a number of seats of fire within the property and that it was a deliberate act, so we are treating this fire as suspicious.”
He said that specially trained dogs were being used to determine whether an accelerant had been used.
Det Con Jordan added: “The three occupants have had to deal with the loss of personal property and university work, the extent of which is not yet known. “At the very least they have had to be re-homed for the immediate future.
“We would ask anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area throughout New Year’s Eve, or who may have any information that could help with the investigation into how and why this fire started, to contact officers.”
Anyone with information can contact detectives at Shirley CID on 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.