Westcliff-on-Sea house fire: Arson investigation launched

Fire at house in Westcliff-on-Sea Image copyright Essex Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption Fire crews were called to the home in Westcliff-on-Sea about 05.45 GMT

A serious house fire which destroyed a three-storey home in Essex is being treated as arson by police.

Firefighters were called to the "well-developed fire" in the detached property on the corner of Kings Road and Chalkwell Avenue, Westcliff-on-Sea, at about 05:45 GMT.

The roof has collapsed and the building has suffered "extensive damage", an Essex Fire Service spokesman said.

Police are also investigating a burglary at the property.

Image copyright Essex Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption The roof of the house house has "entirely collapsed"
Image copyright Ian Burbidge
Image caption Firefighters need to shore up the property before they can check the premises

The blaze was in "real danger" of spreading to neighbouring homes, the spokesman said.

Assistant divisional officer Mark Turnbull said: "There had been reports of an explosion prior to our arrival and the first crews on the scene found an already well-developed fire with multiple seats on all three floors of the house.

"When we first got here there were flames coming out of the windows.

Image copyright Essex Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption Police think the house may have been burgled before the fire started

"The house has suffered extensive damage, the roof has now entirely collapsed."

The fire was extinguished by 09:48, but the house is "unsafe to enter".

Det Con Chris Adam, of Southend CID, said: "There is evidence that someone may have been in the house after the owner was last at home.

"If anyone saw any suspicious activity in this area in the last 24 hours, saw anyone in the vicinity at the time that the fire started or know of someone who has come home this morning smelling of smoke, then I would like to hear from them."

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