A fire which raged through a block of flats may well have been started deliberately.

Police and fire investigators are waiting to carry out full checks on the building, which was badly damaged in a fierce blaze on Sunday night.

Fire crews from Dewsbury, Mirfield, Batley and Wakefield were called in at around 4.50pm when a blaze ripped through the two-storey building at Ashworth Close in the Eightlands district of Dewsbury.

The fire could be seen from far and wide as the first crews on the scene, from Dewsbury, reached the scene.

Firefighters had to tackle the blaze from the ground for the first 20 minutes until a specialist aerial appliance arrived from Wakefield.

All the residents, thought to number at least 12, had left the flats, before the fire brigade arrived.

But fire officers wearing breathing apparatus still had to enter the blazing and smoke-logged building to make sure nobody was still inside.

 

A crowd of residents and neighbours gathered in sub-zero temperatures to watch the drama unfold. Some residents are currently staying with relatives who live nearby.

It is thought that as many as 12 flats were involved in the fire, with five being gutted.

Fire investigation officers are looking into the cause. One theory is that the fire could have been started by an electrical fault but police are keeping an open mind.

Det Insp Stephanie Wiseman, of Kirklees CID, said: “The building has been left structurally unsound and we are waiting to take a proper look

“We do not yet know what caused the fire”..

The apartment complex is managed by Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH).

Dewsbury’s Blue Watch were first on the scene. Watch Commander Richard Carr was initially in charge of the incident, which he described as “serious”.

Blue Watch officers were hampered by the lack of visibility. They got one hose reel on the front door and one at the back until the aerial equipment arrived from Wakefield.

He said: “We could see all the smoke on the way over. We knew it was a serious fire and that it would take some finding. It was pitch black and full of smoke.

Firefighters tackle blaze at Ashworth Close, Dewsbury
Firefighters tackle blaze at Ashworth Close, Dewsbury
 

“We could see the fire along the line of the gutter and then it suddenly and rapidly broke through the roof, and travelled sideways and round the corner, setting all the roofs on fire. Flames were shooting out of the roofs.

“We had to change our tactical planning on how we were fighting the fire and concentrated on stopping it from spreading. It was quite a difficult fire to bring under control.

“We had men in breathing apparatus checking the flats were empty and later that there was no fire burning in the lofts.”

Fire crews were there most of the night.

A Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing spokesman said: “This was a terrible fire and our thoughts are with all those affected by it.

“We are working with emergency planning, the fire brigade, police and structural engineers to assess the damage to the flats, though given the extent of the fire, we expect it will be some time before tenants can move back.

“The fire affected five flats, three of them badly. The tenants are currently staying with family, but our staff are in the process of contacting them to discuss their situation and determine what support they need, now and in the coming weeks.

“Each household has a designated member of staff who will coordinate their move into alternative housing and we will make them as comfortable as possible until they can move back home. If anyone wants to move permanently, we will help with that too”.