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Man in custody after three fires in Winchester city centre
A MAN was arrested after a series of fires in a Hampshire city centre last night.
Firefighters were first called to Phase Eight, on the corner of Parchment Street, in Winchester, at 7pm, after a commercial bin was set alight and pushed through the window of the store, causing serious damage inside.
Shortly afterwards crews from the city were called to the Deanery at Winchester Cathedral, where it is believed a box of books and cardboard were deliberately set on fire.
As firefighters fought to get the blaze under control, 120 people were evacuated from the nearby open air ice rink as a precaution.
The flames caused an estimated £3,000 worth of damage to the doors of the listed building and to a number of antique books, the value of which has not yet been established.
Fortunately the Dean of the Cathedral was not in at the time and the three residents living in the upstairs flat were unharmed.
A third fire was then discovered at the Bengal Spice Restaurant, behind the Port House pub, but thanks to the quick actions of the chef, the flames were put out before any damage was made.
Chief Inspector James Fulton, Winchester area police commander, speaking outside Phase Eight, said: “As the incident covers three sites, one historic, one business and a near-miss at a restaurant, the impact on a range of people is significant.
"Fortunately nobody was hurt but clearly the potential was there and we will be following all lines of inquiry this morning to secure evidence.”
A spokesman for Phase Eight said staff had not been let into the building yet as it was still being treated as a crime scene.
She said: “We have no idea how much damage has been caused or how long we will have to close for because we have not been allowed in yet.”
The shop was empty when the fire started.
A police spokesperson said that no one was injured in any of the fires and that police cordons would remain in place at each of the three scenes until the morning.
They added that a man, believed to be in his late 40’s, was arrested close to the scene of the fires and is currently in custody.
Officers have spoken to a number of witnesses but anyone with any information should contact Winchester Police Station on 101.