FORENSIC investigators were today carrying out a painstaking search of the fire-ravaged home of Hampshire grandad Brent Mason who died in a blaze yesterday.
The 66-year-old, who has been named locally, became trapped inside his home as the rest of his family, including his wife Elizabeth and four grandchildren, fled the burning building.
As the house became engulfed in flames, with temperatures reaching 1,000 degrees the family managed to flee having been alerted by a smoke alarm.
Police have since confirmed Mr Mason was the victim of the fire and are currently treating his death as unexplained.
This morning fire crews as well as detectives and specialists search teams (above) returned to Yew Tree Cottage in The Drove, Calmore, in a bid to determine how the blaze began.
As previously reported, fire crews from across Hampshire were drafted in to tackle the fire and a crew was immediately deployed in a bid to rescue the man, who has not been named by the police.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service told the Daily Echo how fire fighters battled through the fire with reaching temperatures of 1000 degrees whilst smoke and flames poured from every window of the detached home.
The body of the man was found in a ground floor room but he was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, also aged in her 60s, was taken to Southampton General Hospital where she was treated for smoke inhalation and shock.
She was discharged several hours later. She and her grandchildren, aged as young as 13, were all being looked after by the emergency services.
Around 40 firefighters tackled the blaze which completely destroyed the couple's home of more than 40 years.
It took four hours to bring the fire under control after the alarm was first raised at about 8am yesterday.
Once extinguished, fire investigators and forensic teams moved onto the site to begin their investigations into how the fire started.
The police officer leading the probe confirmed that arson was a line of inquiry.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Barton said: “We believe five persons had been rescued from the house but unfortunately one person was trapped inside and pronounced dead at the scene.
“We have begun an investigation into the cause of the fire. We'd like to hear from anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the area between 7am and 8am.
“Officers are carrying out house-to house enquiries in the area. We'd also like to thank local residents for their patience this morning whilst the fire was being dealt with.
“We're keeping an open mind about its cause at the moment. It could be suspicious, it could have been an accident or it could have been an electrical fault.”
At its height the plume of smoke from the fire could be seen over the M27 carriageway.
Dave Graham, station manager at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service's Eastleigh head quarters, said: “The first crews were met with a severe fire on the ground and first floors with flames coming out of every window and every door.
“The crews gained entry with breathing apparatus and aggressively fought the fire and searched the ground floor where we found the casualty dead.
“We knew there was someone in there and that's why despite the severity of the fire the crews fought their way into the building.“Due to the fact that the property had a working smoke detector other members of the house were alerted and thankfully averted a greater tragedy. Our thoughts are with the family of the gentleman.”
Dave Graham, station manager, Hampshire Fire and Rescue
Anyone with information can contact police on 101 or Crime Stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Residents watched on as emergency services filled their usually quiet single track road whilst smoke filled the streets.
Alan Jones, 64, retired, from Calmore Road, said: “There was thick black smoke when I came out to walk the dog, then less than five minutes later I heard the fire engines arrive. We all ran back here and shut all the doors and windows.“It's horrible for anybody that goes through this.”
Bev Lynch, a resident in nearby Kathryn Close, said: "I heard the sirens at about 8am and looked out of the window and saw the smoke and fire engines.
"I thought it must have been a house fire.
"It's just a shame for things like this to happen."
Neighbour Jean Wilkinson, 56, added: “I saw the flames go up when I was in my conservatory.
“It's a bit of a shock to the neighbourhood, not a lot happens round here.
“The fire service were rushing around everywhere, they were brilliant.”
A resident of Loperwood Road, said: "The flames were going up higher than the trees. It is worrying.
"We just heard the sirens. We were looking out the window and this big black smog was going all over the road. It's scary.
"The kids found it exciting but when we saw the stretchers we went indoors."
Andy Workman, 70, retired, who lives nearby in Totton was walking past the scene.
He said: "I heard a lot of sirens at around 8am. I just thought perhaps there had been an accident on the motorway. I didn't expect it around here. It's usually very quiet."