A fire at a five-storey block of flats in the early hours of this morning was started deliberately, police believe. 

Residents were trapped on the second floor of Signal House at Bitter End, Dorchester, when a fire broke out just after 4am. 

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service was called after receiving multiple reports of a fire in a communal area on the second floor. 

Fire control provided fire survival guidance to callers while they sent eight fire engines from Weymouth, Bere Regis, Maiden Newton, Portland plus two each from Bridport and Dorchester, together with the aerial appliance from Weymouth and a support unit from Hamworthy.

Firefighters rescued two people by ladder from a second floor balcony, while two others were led to safety from another flat on the same floor. The whole building was evacuated as a precaution.

Four breathing apparatus wearers used two main jets and two hose reel jets to extinguish the fire, which was contained to the affected communal area.

Police are now appealing for anyone with information to come forward, after stating they believe the fire was started deliberately.

Detective Constable Kirsty Wilson, of Weymouth CID, said: “An investigation is underway to establish the cause of the fire, which is believed to have been started deliberately.

“I am appealing to anyone who may have seen or heard any suspicious activity in the area around the relevant time to please get in touch.

“I would also urge anyone with information that may assist my investigation to please come forward.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Dorset Police at www.dorset.police.uk, via email 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk or by calling 101, quoting occurrence number 55200093577. Alternatively, to stay 100 per cent anonymous, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or call freephone 0800 555 111.​

Volunteers from the British Red Cross emergency response team based at Springbourne fire station attended the scene to support those affected. All occupants have been accounted for and no injuries were reported.

The incident has now been scaled back to two crews from Dorchester, supporting the fire investigation.