A man has been arrested after a town centre flat was engulfed in flames on Monday morning.
The alarm was raised just after 6am by a resident of a neighbouring flat in the Richmond building, who was leaving for work.
The shaken witness, who did not wish to be named, bravely knocked on the other doors, contacted emergency services and helped ensure everyone got out of the building safely.
The property, which was part of a former Richmondshire District Council building in Friars Wynd, Richmond, that had recently been redeveloped into five flats, suffered 80 per cent smoke and fire damage, and the flat below suffered water damage after fire crews fought to save the building.
A local man in his 30s has been arrested on suspicion of arson.
One of the main routes into the town – the junctions of Queens Road, King Street and Victoria Road – was closed to help emergency services deal with the incident, and re-opened just before 10am.
Landlord Graeme Newton said the flat had been completed devastated by the blaze.
Mr Newton, who is managing director of Richmond firm Randall Orchard Construction Ltd, converted the flats and saw the first tenants move in last August.
“Flat four is a write-off – it has no roof because the fire crews had to get at it, and flat two has no structural damage but has water damage,” he said.
“The others are fine and tenants can move back in fairly soon – but with the others it will take about six months. It is a really sorry state to be in and I’m really disappointed.”
Mr Newton, who was on the scene around 7am, managed to rescue a cat which was stuck in the flat beneath the one ablaze.
He said: “The tenant told me the cat was in there so I went in with hard hat to find it. Initially I couldn’t see it but the owner told me he would be in the sofa – which he was.
“He was very scared and ran away under the bed before I was able to catch him and bring him safely back to his owners.”
Richmond Inspector Mark Gee said: “Enquiries are at an early stage and are currently ongoing.
“Inevitably there has been some disruption while we dealt with this incident, and I’d like to thank the public for their co-operation this morning.”
The nearby Georgian Theatre Royal was left unscathed.
The fire comes just a year after fire ravaged through businesses in nearby Finkle Street after an arson attack.
The properties in Finkle Street and neighbouring Rosemary Lane are still undergoing construction work.
Source: The Northern Echo