Families feared house in Leek would explode after it was set on fire by arsonists
WORRIED families have told how they feared a deserted home would explode after it was set on fire by arsonists.
The blaze, which was started deliberately, happened at a detached house off Junction Road, in Leek.
And neighbours told of their concerns after the property, which is believed to be empty, started to 'glow'.
Dulcie Whalley, aged 59, from Sandon Street, alerted the fire service after she spotted light coming from the empty house.
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The full-time carer, whose home looks onto the property, said: "I was still awake and my husband was looking out of the window as if he was puzzled.
"At first I thought someone must be in the house because there was a glowing light coming from the windows.
"Then the whole place lit up bright red and it was quite scary. I thought it was going to explode."
A total of 25 firefighters attended the scene at 12.22am and officers reported that a number of rooms on the first floor and the roof space had caught fire.
The fire was put out at 1.42am, but crews remained on hand to ventilate the property and dampen down.
They eventually left the scene at 3.45am.
The large house, which was built in the last four years, is in an isolated location near the cattle market off Junction Road.
Neighbours believed that the house had been empty for a few weeks after the owners were seen to leave the property.
Police forensics were working alongside the fire service yesterday and established that the house was deliberately set on fire.
Mrs Whalley said: "It was a very strange sight and quite frightening in the middle of the night. The house was smouldering red and there was a lot of black smoke pouring up from it."
She had to contact the fire service to help them locate the property which was on fire. They had to break through a fence togain access.
Mrs Whalley added: "It is quite a difficult place to find so I had to ring the fire brigade back because they were in the wrong place.
"The building is quite close to the bottom of our garden, so it could have been terrible if it had exploded."
The damage from the fire had blown out the first floor windows, and the balconies on either side were burnt black.
Roger Stevens, aged 51, from Junction Road, saw the fire engines head towards the house.
The labourer said: "I saw the flashing lights go past and the fire engine pulled up. We didn't know what was happening because you can't see from here.
"I have heard of hay being set on fire before, but nothing like this, especially with the wet weather."
A neighbour from Sandon Street, who asked to remain unnamed, said she slept through the blaze.
She said: "I have heard that the damage was quite bad and you can see the charred roof from my window.
"There was a fire there a couple of Christmas's ago, but otherwise we haven't had any trouble.
"As far as I knew the house was empty and the owners had moved out."
Station manager Carl Mason said: "The house was empty and up for sale and so luckily no-one was inside the building when crews arrived.
"A police and fire investigation has established that the fire was started deliberately.
"This was a dangerous act carried out by whoever was responsible and the severity of the fire meant the lives of our firefighters were put also at risk.
"When firefighters were able to go into the building they had to contend with loose stairs and flooring as well as the fire itself. The first floor has been destroyed by fire, heat and smoke and there is smoke logging throughout the ground floor of the property."