A FORMER care home erupted into flames despite reports that nobody has lived there for two years.

Cottage Farm in Hythe used to support residents with learning disabilities for 20 years, but had to close its doors in February 2018.

It came after social care bosses reviewed ways to support people with learning and physical disabilities, leaving national charity MacIntyre, which owned the care home, with such reduced funding that they were no longer able to provide a service.

Since then, the property on Southampton Road has been left vacant.

Daily Echo:

However on Friday, firefighters were called to a blaze at the home which “lit the trees up” during the late hours.

But a spokesperson for Hampshire Fire and Rescue service said they could not figure out how the fire happened.

They said: “We were called at 9.15pm, and the property was 100 per cent damaged by fire.We have since gone back and reinspected it, but it was an unknown cause."

Daily Echo:

A family who have lived next door to Cottage Farm for 14 years - which also owns livestock such as horses and guinea fowl - said they saw flames through the trees.

Kathy Hogarty said: “We were sat outside when the phone rang, so we went indoors and our neighbour rang to say our house was on fire.

“But we looked out and saw that it was next door [Cottage Farm] on fire, so we ran round and the fire brigade were already there.

“It all just went crazy, I was panicking because we have horses, guinea fowl, geese, chickens, ducks, and hay and straw. It could have spread.”

A police officer who remained at the site the following day said that parts of the house kept falling down.

Daily Echo:

The house was seen visibly damaged, with the roof completely destroyed and ceilings having fallen through.

Kathy’s husband Steve said: “The trees were lit up and it was quite big, you could see flames through the trees.

“It’s been so dry where the place is not getting looked after, as nobody has lived there for two years, so bits of grass could have caught on fire."