POLICE are treating an early hours blaze that gutted a house in Slimbridge today as suspected arson.

More than 20 firefighters battled to bring the fire, at a vacant four-bedroom house in Shepherd’s Patch, under control after the alarm was raised by neighbours.

Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue said it received several 999 calls from Slimbridge residents reporting the house fire in the early hours of the morning.

Two fire crews from Dursley Fire Station arrived at the scene just before 12.30am and called for back up. Two additional appliances were sent from Stroud and Wotton-under-Edge Fire Stations.

According to Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue the property was well alight and 23 firefighters battled to bring the inferno under control using water from the Gloucester and Sharpness canal. Crews remained there for four hours.

Station commander Colin Southwood said: "Flames were through the roof on arrival at the scene, crews worked effectively to extinguish the fire within the first hour, firefighters proceeded to dampen down the roof embers and ensure what remained of the building was safe."

David and Sylivia Hatcliffe, who live nearby, said they were woken by the emergency services.

Mr Hatcliffe told the Gazette: "We were woken at about 12.30am. We could see the fire and lots of blue flashing lights. The fire engines just kept coming. They were here for quite a while putting it out."

A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "We saw some flickering lights. We thought it was a car’s headlights. We looked out and saw flames coming through the roof."

Neighbours said the house had been empty for about two months following the death of its owner. The four-bedroom family home had only just been put on the market and had an asking price of £325,000.

Gloucestershire Police are now investigating the fire, which officers are treating as suspected arson.

Police have asked anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the area to call the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number 7 of March 7, or contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.