Residents at a block of flats thought to have been deliberately set on fire have been told by a housing company their safety and welfare is a priority.

Magna Housing has issued a statement after a blaze at Signal House in Bitter End, Dorchester, in the early hours of Monday morning.

Police believe it was started on purpose on the second floor of the five-storey building just after 4am.

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 their balcony.

Magna Housing housing director, Tony Murray, said he was 'saddened' to learn of the fire at one of the company's shared ownership properties, alongside Bridge House next door, where it has rented homes.

"We are pleased that all occupants are safe and our priority at this time is their ongoing welfare," said Mr Murray.

"Many of them will be able to return to their homes but we are making sure that those who need alternative accommodation or additional support receive this.

"We want to reassure our shared owners that they are not on their own at this time and we will be there to make sure that the building is repaired and any works undertaken swiftly so it can remain safe."

Mr Murray said the fire was contained by the fire doors and he understands that the most damage was to the communal areas, however, Magna is waiting to gain full access before it can assess the full extent of any damage and determine what repairs might be needed.

"We will continue to work with the police and fire service to support their investigations," he said.

Yesterday, police said a 42-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of arson and released on bail.

Police are still appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

Detective Constable Kirsty Wilson, of Weymouth CID, said: “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 can contact Dorset Police at, via email or by calling 101, quoting number 55200093577.