Arson suspects hunted as second blaze guts house in Prince of Wales Road
Building left derelict and windows not boarded up after earlier fire in January
30 March, 2017 — By William McLennan
Flames ripped through the home
A FIRE that destroyed a terrace house and forced dozens to flee their homes is believed to have been started deliberately. It is the second suspected arson attack at the same address within months.
The three-storey property in Prince of Wales Road, Chalk Farm, which was gutted on Monday, had been left with no windows after a fire in January.
Neighbours said they had asked the council to secure the building by boarding it up, but a Town Hall spokesman yesterday (Wednesday) maintained it was not their responsibility.
Flames burst through the windows and roof at about 7.30pm. At their height flames rose several metres above the building and could be seen from the other side of Parliament Hill. No one was injured.
Police are treating the blaze as “suspicious”. Two separate witnesses told the New Journal they saw two teenage boys run from the building just seconds before it “exploded” in flames.
One said: “I saw two kids acting strange outside the house and the fire just exploded into the window, and they ran off laughing. I think they used an accelerant or something.
“It went from a small flame and then all of a sudden it just exploded. It went boom. Flames and debris started coming out and we heard bangs.”
Six fire engines were sent to tackle the flames
London Fire Brigade, which sent 35 firefighters and six fire engines to the scene, said it received 38 emergency calls from members of the public. Firefighters were able to stop flames spreading to neighbouring homes and had the blaze under control by 10.30pm.
Witnesses praised emergency services and one police officer’s “courageous” attempts to evacuate neighbouring properties.
The earlier blaze at the same address, on January 7, is also believed to have been the result of arson.
Giorgiana Cardos, who was evacuated from her home, said of Monday’s fire: “I was stood by the window and I heard what sounded like gunshots. I heard three bangs. It sounded very much like an explosion.
“When I saw the fire, I thought maybe it’s a gas leak. Obviously, we were worried it was going to take all the houses. I thought: ‘Which one is going to be next?’.”
She questioned why the house had been left unsecured for so long, adding: “You can’t just ignore it and say it’s not my responsibility. If you already had suspicions that somebody did this deliberately, surely you would take some sort of measure to secure the building. It was just left looking like a haunted house and anyone could go in there.”
The roof was destroyed by flames
Roger Moran, who lives next door, said: “You have to think if it was boarded up this second fire wouldn’t have happened.”
He accepted it was not the council’s responsibility to look after a private property, adding: “It’s one of those things that falls through the cracks. The council can’t do everything.”
Another witness, who lives nearby, said the building should have been boarded up after the first fire. “Residents in the neighbourhood don’t feel safe,” she said. “The council should be questioned about this. What these poor neighbours have had to tolerate is shocking.”
A council spokesman said: “This is a private property and the property owner is responsible for its security.”
According to Land Registry records, the house is owned by a woman who neighbours said died “two or three years ago”, aged in her early 90s .
It is understood a man has been charged in relation to the January fire.
Monday’s blaze is being treated as “suspicious” by police and an investigation continues.
The front door and gate were boarded up on Tuesday night.
Detective Superintendent Stuart Ryan said detectives were searching for two suspects “who were seen near the address around the time the fire started.”
He asked members of the public to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 with any information.