Firefighters risked serious injury when they were called to tackle a deliberate fire at an empty house in Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent.
Two appliances from Hanley and one from Longton attended the blaze which broke out at 11.24am on Saturday in Seaford Street.
"On entering the property crews were faced with dense black smoke. Firefighters became aware of a hissing sound coming from under the stairs."
Mick Daniels, Station Manager
After spotting thick black smoke pouring out of the open front door of the terraced house, neighbours called the emergency services. On arriving at the scene crews discovered the property's gas supply had been disconnected with gas flooding the ground floor. Two firefighters wearing breathing apparatus extinguished the blaze using one hose reel jet.
Station Manger, Mick Daniels, said the condition of the house posed a risk to firefighters.
"Crews had difficulty locating the fire due to the density of smoke," said Mick.
"On entering the property crews were faced with dense black smoke. Firefighters became aware of a hissing sound coming from under the stairs. They discovered the gas supply was on at the main stop valve.
"Firefighters on the first floor encountered several hazards due to loose or missing floorboards. The fire was eventually located in a ground floor rear bathroom. It was extinguished and the property ventilated."
Mick added investigations at the scene discovered the fire had been started deliberately.
"There were signs of forced entry and all copper work in the house had been stripped out,” said Mick.
“Because of the suspicious nature of the fire a joint investigation was launched with police."
The property, which has a ‘To Let’ board displayed outside, is in various stages of renovation.
"While a theft had taken place at the property, this was a highly irresponsible and deliberate act to cause potential injury or death to anyone in the locality and anyone responding to the fire," said Mick.
"We will be working closely with the Police and local community to find out who is responsible.
"Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service would urge all landlords and agents who look after properties to be vigilant by making regular checks and making sure there are adequate security measures in place on all their empty properties. These houses will be targets for criminals looking to take advantage of the price of metals. They also offer potential for other criminal activities. All mains gas and electric supplies should be either capped or disconnected if the property is going to be empty for some time."
Mick added recent reports in the national press have revealed the price of copper has increased by 300 per cent. Stories also reveal a spate of copper thefts across the UK. Following Friday's incident, Hanley firefighters visited properties in the community to advise residents and tenants about fire safety and security in their homes.