Police have launched an investigation to determine whether a house devastated by fire in Fartown was deliberately set alight.

They said the early-hours blaze could well have been the work of an arsonist.

A taxi driver who lives opposite the house in York Avenue raised the alarm at 3am when he awoke to see the house going up in flames.

The father-of-two, who did not wish to be named, said: “There were flames and thick black smoke billowing out of the house. I phoned 999 then went out and knocked on the neighbours to get them out.

“We didn’t know if anyone was living there. It had been sold recently and a man was doing it up, so he had been coming and going.

“It was really bad. The fire brigade arrived quite quickly and the bright lights on the fire engine woke everyone up, so there were quite a lot of people in the street.”

Firefighters from Huddersfield Fire Station attended and donned breathing apparatus to search the house and fight the flames, fearing someone may be inside.

But the house was empty.

One of the residents living in an adjoining house said: “My husband woke up and had smelt the smoke and looked out the window just as fire engine turned up.

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“My son and his wife live with us and we left the house and went outside.

“The smoke was billowing out but the wind was blowing the other way so it was fortunate it wasn’t spreading to our house”.

Huddersfield Fire Brigade Watch Commander Graham Calcraft, of Green Watch, said: “If the taxi driver hadn’t spotted it when he did there would be nothing left.

“He saw smoke and flames coming from a ground floor window and called us.

“When we got there the ground floor was 100% involved in the fire.

“The neighbour wasn’t sure if an elderly couple lived there, so four firefighters wearing breathing apparatus went in. We had two hose reels to deal with the fire but there was nobody inside.”

The property has been largely gutted by the blaze and police cordoned off the scene as investigations began.

Det Insp Steph Wiseman, of Huddersfield CID, said: “Enquires are ongoing into a house fire in Fartown in the early hours of Friday morning.“Scenes of crime officers have attended today and we are now trying to establish the cause of the blaze which is being treated as malicious ignition.”

Anyone with information should contact police on 101.