“THEY need to be brought to justice before they strike again.”

That’s the call from Swaythling councillor Bob Painton, who has called on police to hunt down a suspected serial arsonist.

It comes after three reported arson attacks in just five days – all of which took place within half a mile of each other.

The latest attack left a family trapped and screaming for help after a fire began outside their first-floor flat.

Police have since promised to step up patrols in the area, in a bid to stop further attacks.

But Swaythling city councillor Bob Painton says the culprit will strike again if they are not caught soon.

He said: “They need to be brought to justice and quickly before they strike again and before it progresses to something even more serious.

“There are lots of places in the area that are first-floor flats like this and those people are going to be living in fear that they will be targeted.”

Councillor Painton said he was pleased to hear more police would be patrolling the area and called on residents in the area to stay vigilant.

His Swaythling colleague, Councillor Spiros Vassiliou, also raised concerns.

He said: “This is extremely shocking to hear.

“This is a peaceful area of the city and an area where people get on together and live happily.

“I urge anyone with information to tell the police and assist them in anyway they possibly can to help bring this person to justice as soon as possible.”

Police say the the first of the arson attacks, which they believe are linked, took place on February 11 at an address in Langhorn Road.

The incident happened between 3.54pm and 4.20pm, when two cars parked on a driveway were set on fire.

Police say a second fire took place on Langhorn Road, less than 24 hours later.

The incident, which happened at 9.25pm, involved a fire at the front door of an address.

On that occasion, three people inside the address were able to leave the property and were uninjured.

The most recent and most serious incident took place on Thursday, at a flat in High Road.

A fire started outside the front door of the property, blocking the exit for the family inside.

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, told the Echo that they could hear “screams through the walls” as the family begged for help.

Firefightersrom St Mary’s and Redbridge attended the incident and put out the fire entered the smoke-field flat with ventilation masks and rescued the couple, their young child and the family dog.

They were rushed to Southampton General Hospital as a precaution, but did not suffer injuries in the fire.

Police spent most of Thursday investigating the property and later confirmed they had launched an arson probe.

A police spokesperson said: “The fire had started at the rear of a business premises with a flat above, putting the lives of the residents in danger. This fire is being treated as arson and we are linking it to two recent fires on Langham Road on February 11 and February 12.

“Officers will be conducting extra patrols in Swaythling to provide reassurance.”