FORENSIC teams were last night searching an Oxford tower block flat after a suspected arson attack.
Two men were yesterday being quizzed by police after dozens of people were evacuated from the 14-storey Foresters Tower in Wood Farm.
Police and firefighters were called to the tower at 1.30am yesterday after smoke began billowing out of a second-floor bedroom.
Firefighters found no one inside the flat when they arrived on the scene.
But they evacuated the second and third floor of the 1960s block, which is owned by Oxford City Council.
Terry John, who lives on the second floor, was woken up by the fire alarm.
He said: “There was thick black smoke in the corridors.
“One of my friends told me we were being evacuated so we went downstairs. We were out for about an hour.
“Once I was out of the building I wasn’t too worried.”
Thames Valley Police has said the fire caused “substantial damage” to the flat but no one was reported injured.
Oxfordshire Fire Service watch manager Steve Johns, who was called to the scene, said: “There was an awful lot of fire damage. The bed and the window frame in the bedroom were destroyed, and there was smoke and heat damage throughout the rest of the flat. No one was in the flat when it was entered. Based on the time of night we assumed there would have been.”
Firefighters used ladders to get in from the outside as well as fighting the flames from inside the block.
The fire also woke up many residents in the block, which contains approximately 100 flats.
Rajan Philip, who lives in Pether Road opposite the scene, said: “I was woken by the fire alarm and saw some of the firemen fighting it. There was a lot of smoke coming out of the flat.”
Titup Hall Drive resident John Simlett said: “I saw the fire brigade but I didn’t know what had happened. I was just going to bed when I saw lots of flashing blue lights.”
CCTV was installed at the tower in 2008 but it was last night unclear whether it was being used in this investigation.
Roz Smith, county councillor for Barton and Churchill, said: “I am very pleased that the police have made such a quick arrest, and at the quick reaction of our brilliant fire service.”
Police spokesman Adam Fisher said the early indications were that the fire started in the bedroom but would not comment on what started the fire and why it was being treated as arson.
He added the fire was believed to have been started inside the flat.
The two men, aged 20 and 40, have been arrested on suspicion of arson and were last night in custody.
- Anyone with any information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.