A WOMAN leapt from her balcony as she desperately tried to evade flames ripping through through her flat.

Residents have spoken of seeing flames shoot from the flat in Southampton after a fire engulfed the property.

The tenant of the first floor flat in Southampton was apparently seen jumping from the balcony of the property to escape the blaze that broke out at about 11.40pm last night.

Eye witnesses told the Daily Echo how they saw flames and thick black smoke billowing from flat in Redbridge Hill.

The ferocity of the blaze led to the home being completely destroyed by fire with scorch marks still visible this morning on the outside walls above the flat.

Police officers were guarding the scene for forensic officers to begin their investigations into what caused the fire, which is throught to have been started deliberately.

The only occupant of the flat was not believed to be injured as a result of the fire.

Neighbour Joe Shepperd, 36, said: “It was about midnight when I first heard all the emergency services and saw them all around the flat.

The fire was really going, I saw flames coming out of the building and smoke billowing from it. I couldn't see if anyone was inside.

“I was shaking it was so fierce, and I wasn't really all that close to it.”

All the residents of the block of maisonette-style flats were evacuated to allow the emergency services to tackle the blaze.

Daily Echo:

At its height some 50 firefighters were involved in the fire fighting effort whilst ambulances were also on the scene.

The fire broke out as members of the Fire Brigade Union staged the latest in a series of walkouts. As a result standby crews from across the area dealt with the blaze.

A spokesman for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said: "We had four applicances from across the area involved in tackling the fire with the stop message received at 1.15am.

"I think this shows that we do have the contingency plans in place to deal with incidents if they occur whilst industrial action is being staged."

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said: “The first I heard was this big bang and then I heard all the emergency services. It was quite big, really awful. I just hoped the woman was alright, I wasn't sure whether she had got out or not.”

Another nearby resident said she had seen the woman jump from her balcony shortly after the fire started before being put into an emergency services vehicle.

Hampshire police confirmed they were investigating the fire which is thought to have been started deliberately.

A 44-year-old woman was this morning helping police with their inquiries.