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Residents flee as huge blaze rages in Cutteslowe
9:00am Friday 22nd February 2013 in News
MORE than 60 firefighters battled a huge blaze at a block of flats in north Oxford yesterday that forced residents to evacuate their homes for their own safety.
A three-storey building in Hawksmoor Road, Cutteslowe, was cleared of residents as crews battled to control the fire, which is believed to have been started deliberately.
Two men were arrested inside the flat on suspicion of arson with intent, as the fire was being dealt with, and Thames Valley Police has launched an investigation into the cause.
Tenants in seven of the properties were allowed back home later the same day.
But five were so badly damaged by smoke and water that tenants were not allowed back in.
Three were put in temporary accommodation. Oxford City Council’s tenancy management officer Adam Massingham worked throughout the day to rehouse those affected.
Crews from stations at Rewley Road, Kidlington, Eynsham, Abingdon, Slade Park and Woodstock fought the flames for nearly three hours from 9.30am until midday.
They managed to put out the fire in the roof of the building before it spread to the whole block of around 30 council flats.
Tenants in 12 flats were directly affected. Among them was pensioner Raisah Shiblak, 71, who was at home when her ground-floor flat filled with smoke.
She said: “I was in my bathroom in my robe when I heard the fire alarm. I thought it was coming from my kitchen, the smoke was so bad. It was hard to breathe.”
Ms Shiblak escaped from her flat and said she was going to stay with a friend.
Kayleigh Watson, who also lives in the block, said she returned home at around 11am to see fire engines and police everywhere.
Fortunately her four-year-old daughter Shaan Ali was at school. But Ms Watson was concerned because her dog Tyson was still in the property at the time of the fire.
She said: “They [firefighters] kicked my door down to save my dog. I was nearly crying, because you don’t know what to expect. I thought it was my flat, it was really scary. Thank God my daughter was at school.”
Ms Watson was asked to collect a few belongings and stay clear of her flat while fire fighters dealt with the aftermath of the blaze.
A woman living in a neighbouring property saw a man being led out of an ambulance and handcuffed by police. Ibtissam Flynn, 27, said: “It was mad, it was scary. While the fire was going on, the flames were huge. It was sad to see elderly resident being forced out their flats.”
No one was injured in the blaze.
Incident Commander from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue service, Jason Crapper, said: “We have kept the fire back but there is some extensive damage to the roof. The fire was actually in the roof over two flats.
“When we turned up there was already dark black smoke. That is indicative of a serious fire.”
Thames Valley Police inspector Ned Qureshi said: “We have two people in custody at the moment and have launched an investigation.”