Flats evacuated in Budleigh after early-hours arson attack ‘near gas pipe’

An arson attack at flats in Budleigh Salterton in the early hours of Wednesday morning (July 29) is believed to have been started deliberately near gas pipes, resulting in the evacuation of residents.

Police investigating reports the fire was started deliberately at around 2am in Greenway Lane, say no one was injured.

East Devon News has been told a fire was lit near a gas meter, flames spread to the outside of the flats, and was put out by a passing police officer.

The latest fire is the third early-hours arson attack to property in Greenway Lane in as many weeks.

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokeswoman said: “Police are currently investigating reports of an arson which happened on Greenway Lane in Budleigh Salterton this morning, Wednesday 29 July at around 2am.

“No injuries were reported.”

Police are also investigating a further seven suspected arson attacks to bins in the Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton areas, carried out in the last month.

Devon and Cornwall Police believe the fires are all linked and have appealed for public help to identify the arsonist.

The bins of commercial premises have been targeted in six cases but the the fire in the early hours of Friday, July, 24, was started in recycling waste outside flats in Budleigh, while the occupants were asleep.

Police said no one was injured and the smoke-logged flats, also in Greenway Lane, were evacuated.

A further fire happened at Exmouth Pavilion on the Esplanade at 1.30am on Monday, July 13. Police believe an accelerant was used.

The bins at Budleigh Salterton Football Club, in Greenway Lane, were targeted around 3am on Saturday, July 11.

On Wednesday, July 7, several thousand pounds worth of damage was caused to the Bumble and Bee tearoom in the Manor Gardens, Exmouth, after a fire started at 2.45am and spread to the building.

Further bin fires occurred at Lympstone Boxing Club at 2pm on Sunday, July 5, at Harbour View Café in Exmouth between 8.30am and 9am on Friday, July 3, and at Hamilton Lane in Exmouth between 4am and 7am on Sunday, May 3.

Police and the fire service are urging residents and business owners to be vigilant, take steps to reduce the risk and to report any suspicious behaviour.

Detectives at Exmouth want to hear from anyone who has witnessed any suspicious activity or if they have concerns about any person they may know, who has come home smelling of smoke, or has developed a fascination with fire or the emergency services.

Police are keen to hear from anyone who may have any information to help their enquiries, including those with CCTV footage from the areas where fires have been started.

Officers will continue to conduct door-to-door enquiries in the affected areas and are urging people to be vigilant.

Investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Tim Hegarty of Exmouth CID, said: “So far these fires have caused damage to people’s business premises – at times causing a lot of financial damage, anguish and inconvenience.”

He added: “We would like to hear from anyone who has witnessed any suspicious activity or have concerns about any person they may know who has, for example, come home smelling of fire, or has developed a fascination with fire or the emergency services.”

Area Manager Darren Peters, of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said fires started deliberately can be ‘particularly dangerous’ because they generally develop much faster.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact police on 101 or via email at 101@dc.police.uk and quote log number 0099 of 13 July.

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