A RESIDENT of a Dorchester building where people were trapped in flats by fire and thick black smoke has spoken about their terrifying ordeal.

Police believe a fire was deliberately started on the second floor of Signal House at Bitter End in Dorchester just after 4am on Monday.

Residents were evacuated and eight fire engines were called to the scene, while some people were trapped in their flats and had to be rescued from the five-storey building.

A resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We woke up to the sound of the fire alarm and could smell smoke. We could see thick smoke in the hallway of the second floor from the stairwell.

“People on the second floor were trapped in their flats because there was acrid black smoke outside their front doors.

“The fire brigade were excellent, arriving on scene just a couple of minutes later, rapidly and calmly assisting residents who were stuck on their balconies. Using a ladder they helped a young man and a young woman climb to safety from the second floor, who were treated by paramedics.

“We were kept outside for nearly three hours until we could return. Some residents have been unable to go back to their homes because of the smoke damage.

“It was a terrifying experience for everyone.”

Four firefighters entered the smoke-filled building and used two main jets and two hose reel jets to extinguish the fire, which was contained to the affected communal area.

Volunteers from the British Red Cross emergency response team based at Springbourne fire station attended the scene to support those affected. Thankfully, all occupants were accounted for and no injuries were reported.

Police are now appealing for anyone with information to come forward, after stating they believe the fire was started deliberately.

Detective Constable Kirsty Wilson, of Weymouth CID, said: “An investigation is underway to establish the cause of the fire, which is believed to have been started deliberately.

“I am appealing to anyone who may have seen or heard any suspicious activity in the area around the relevant time to please get in touch.

“I would also urge anyone with information that may assist my investigation to please come forward.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police at www.dorset.police.uk, via email 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk or by calling 101, quoting occurrence number 55200093577. Alternatively, to stay 100 per cent anonymous, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or call freephone 0800 555 111.