DETECTIVES are probing a suspected drug factory uncovered when firefighters were called to a blaze that ripped through a home.

Thick smoke poured out of the end-of-terrace property in Barton Road, Eastleigh, as police and the fire service arrived shutting off nearby roads on Monday night.

The roof of the building has been completely destroyed despite crews' best efforts.

But now a police investigation is underway into possible drug cultivation at the property, with this being linked to the start of the fire.

Officers, who worked with utility firm SSE, said the power supply may have been tampered with - and this could be a contributing factor in the blaze.

The street's power was cut between 10.30pm and midnight on Monday during the blaze, which started just before 6pm.

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Barton Road resident Paul Stoodley told the Daily Echo: "There was thick, white smoke everywhere, the house must have been an absolute blaze.

"It's quite scary because it's not the sort of thing you expect to see down a residential street."

Jayne Ward, 53, of Barton Road, added: "Initially there was smoke coming out of the top bedroom window and then it became very smoky very quickly.

"It all escalated really quickly, it's quite scary to see the roof come down and the whole thing was on fire in a short amount of time.”

Around 35 firefighters were from Eastleigh, St Mary’s and Redbridge stations, tackled the blaze from 5.51pm.

Eastleigh District Commander, Chief Inspector Paul Southam, said: “There is likely to be a large police presence in the area over the next few days while officers continue their enquiries, to ascertain the exact circumstances relating to the fire – including potential drug cultivation.

He added: “We want to stress that any production of drugs is linked to hidden harm and these sites are often run by organised crime gangs, who are likely to engage in very serious violence involving weapons and also take advantage of vulnerable people, exploiting them or making them work in servitude.”

Officers are now hunting for who may have been living in the property.

A statement said: “We are working closely with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service as part of our enquiries to ascertain the exact circumstances of the incident and identifying those who may have been residing in the property.”

Anyone with information should call police on 101.

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