RESIDENTS are ‘living in fear’ in their homes and 'being put at risk' - following a suspected arson attack.

Emergency services were called to St James’ Court in Whitehaven last Monday and found the Home Group property ‘well alight’.

Police have since arrested four men on suspicion of arson and enquiries are ongoing.

A tenant who lives in one of the flats at St James’ Court has described the ‘frightening’ ordeal, which led to him being evacuated from his home.

He said: “I was just chilling watching TV, when I saw police cars coming up the road. I noticed police were blocking the road off.

“A police officer came running up the road and all of a sudden I heard banging on the door. I was panicking. I opened my door and police said I had to get out.

“As soon as I opened the front door, I saw all the smoke. I was standing outside in the pouring rain for ages.”

He said the tenant of the burning property had not been at home at the time of the incident.

Whitehaven News: The resident was not at home when the fire started The resident was not at home when the fire started (Image: Submitted)

“It must have been frightening for him [the tenant] because police were looking for him. We didn’t know where he was. The poor lad came home to see that. The flat’s a mess. It’s all boarded up.

“If that flat really went up and it hit the gas mains and it exploded, it could have been worse.

“It’s just getting worse living in Whitehaven. It’s frightening. People shouldn’t have to live in fear. That shouldn’t happen. You feel like you should be safe in your own home. It’s shocking. It’s getting out of hand.”

Brian O’Kane, a Whitehaven Town councillor, who is also a governor for St James C of E Infant & Nursery School, which is opposite St James’ Court, said: “This has occurred within 100 yards of an infants’ school, which is quite a worry.

“In my experience it’s very difficult as a councillor to contact Home Group and attempt to help residents.

“Not having an office that’s open to the public is very detrimental to the community. Hopefully within the Whitehaven area, the Town Council and Home Group may be able to improve their working partnership to help redress some of the concerning issues that seem to frequently occur.

“It’s dreadful to see a situation as this occurring that puts local residents in such danger.

“Hopefully Home Group can seek to address situations in line with their prime mission statement of providing a safe environment for their residents and not one underpinned by fear or stress.”

Steve Heywood, from Home Group’s customers and communities team, said: “We take a very hard line on anti-social behaviour (ASB) and have successfully removed residents causing issues on more than one occasion in Whitehaven.

“Recently, we have put a number of measures in place to ensure our zero tolerance approach to ASB is as effective as it can be.

“That includes a specialist team now in place to be the first point of contact for ASB issues and a comprehensive training programme for colleagues on the frontline. We are also working with customers on what is ASB, as well as setting up a customer scrutiny group for lessons learned.

“One of the key factors in successfully tackling ASB is working with key partners like the police. We have great relationships with the police in Whitehaven, for instance, which is why we have been effective in resolving issues and evicting those causing the ASB.

“Any customer or community member who would like to report ASB activity can call us direct on 0345 141 4663 or can report it on our website.”

A spokesperson for Cumbria Police said: “Police are investigating a fire at a property on St James’ Court, Whitehaven.

“Officers received a report of the fire at 9.37pm on May 8. No one was in the property at the time.

“Four men have been arrested on suspicion of arson. They were subsequently bailed while enquiries continue.”

A spokesperson for Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service said: “At 9.38pm on May 8, Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service were mobilised to reports of a flat fire on High Street, Whitehaven.

“Crews from Whitehaven and Egremont attended the incident and upon arrival discovered the flat well alight. Firefighters extinguished the fire and were on scene for approximately 50 minutes.

“There were no casualties or injuries.”