TWO families fled their homes after an alleged arson attack saw fire engulf the top floor of a city apartment block.

Thick plumes of smoke filled the hallway after the blaze broke out in a bedroom of a fourth floor flat in Keynsham Road, Bitterne.

Nine firefighters from Hightown fire station tackled the fire in the early hours of yesterday which saw a 28-year-old woman and two children taken to Southampton General Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Mum-of-one Eva Wasilewska, who lives next door to where the fire broke out, described how she had her young cat Leon to thank for alerting her to the blaze.

She said: “It was very scary, it was about 1.30am and I could hear my cat miaowing loudly, which woke me up.

“I’d never heard Leon miaow like that and then I heard the fire alarm and thought something must have happened. I could hear my neighbour shouting to her children and they ran out of the flat.

“I was asking her if she needed help. My cat Leon is my hero for what he did.”

Ms Wasilewska, 35, who works as a cleaner, opened the windows in her flat and then fled the property with her 10-year-old son, Maxwell.

Daily Echo: The flats at Keynsham Road in Bitterne where the fire broke out

Another neighbour described how she could hear a party going on at the flat where the fire broke out.

Cher Crimble, a 28-year-old mum-of-one who lives on the third floor, said: “I could hear noise coming from upstairs at about 10.30pm and there seemed to be some sort of party going on.

“At about 1.30am I was woken up by my cat Bolt, who was rubbing his head against me.

“The whole top floor was blackened and there were plumes of smoke. It was a little bit distressing at the time. I thought I would need to be evacuated.”

Cher was quick to praise the actions of the firefighters who asked her to stay in her home and quickly dealt with the blaze.

She added: “The firemen were brilliant.”

Police confirmed a 28-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of arson and is now helping them with their inquiries.