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Fire investigators believe major Winchester blaze was arson
INVESTIGATORS suspect a devastating fire that caused the partial collapse of a house under construction in Winchester was arson.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue said today that they now think the fire in Hatherley Road, Fulflood, was started deliberately.
Rob Carter, director of Millgate, the builder, said: “You just think: why would somebody want to do that?
“It took a week to sink in but it seems there are people in this world who will do this sort of thing.”
He said he had been confident his builders were not at fault.
“It’s absolutely a relief now that this information is out there. We do take pride in running a tight ship and after I had checked with my site manager, he confirmed that we weren’t even doing any ‘hot works’ at the time.
“The report said that all the electrics were first class and done perfectly,” he said.
Demolition took six days, beginning from September 2. Millgate say that by Christmas, the project will be back to where it was prior to the fire, with completion possible by Easter 2014.
The fire happened in the early hours of August 22, when ten families were forced to flee as a blaze tore through a soon-to-be completed two-storey housing complex.
The fire, described by Hampshire Fire and Rescue as “severe”, saw 40 firefighters battle flames before the building caved in. Residents described the scene as like a “volcanic eruption”, with neighbouring houses suffering heat damage to the windows and paintwork, with a nearby lamppost melting as a result of the intense heat.
The scene was investigated jointly by specialist investigators from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, and detectives from Hampshire police.
Andy Earl, fire investigation officer for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “A joint agency investigation in partnership with Hampshire Constabulary was launched immediately to determine the cause of the fire.
“This investigation is still on-going, but, at this time, the investigation has ruled that the fire was not started by an accidental ignition source such as faulty electrics or by any of the on-site staff who had been working at the property the previous day.”
The case is being investigated by Det Con Rich Jones and it is believed police are reviewing CCTV footage taken from a fire engine at the scene.
Det Con Jones said: "Following an investigation by the Arson Task Force we are now treating this incident as an arson and will be conducting further enquiries to identify the person or people responsible."
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