AN ARSON investigation has been launched after dozens of firefighters were called to a late-night blaze at a block of flats.

Emergency services rushed to Botley Road, Park Gate, at about 10.23pm on Saturday after the alarm was raised.

They left at 4.40 yesterday.

Since then, police officers and arson investigators have been on the scene.

A spokeswoman from Hampshire Constabulary said: "Officers were called at just before 10.30pm on Saturday, 9 June to a fire at a block of flats on Botley Road, Park Gate.

"The incident is being treated as arson and investigations are ongoing.

"Anyone with information should contact Hampshire Constabulary on 101 quoting 44180215549."

Crews from stations used eight pumps, three jets, hose reels and 13 breathing apparatus to tackle the fire, which badly damaged two flats and the roof of the building.

No-one was injured and two rabbits, two dogs and two goldfish were rescued.

Beacon Bottom neighbour Roger Webb said he was alerted to the fire at around 10.30pm as he watched TV.

He said: “I heard this great big explosion then the garden got illuminated with an orange glow.

“I said that’s too big for a firework. I looked out the top window I saw the fire in the top right hand flat burn then it was licking down the balcony and going up into the roof.

“There was a lot of commotion. People were running around the yard. I rang 999 but I don’t think I was the first.

“It was quite spectacular. There was a forty foot flame shooting out of the top.

“It went up so quickly. It was just like a tinder box.”

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue statement says: "Thanks to the work of the fire crews, the front halves of the properties have been saved.

"The cause of the fire will now be investigated."