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Oxfordshire fires: 27 fire crews deal with three major blazes in space of 10 minutes across county - man (47) arrested

By Adam Withnall and Emma Clark

A 47-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with three major fires at a thatched house, a district council office and a funeral home.

Thames Valley Police said it is believed that a vehicle "collided" with the South Oxfordshire District Council building prior to the fire breaking out in the early hours of the morning.

At the peak of the incidents, 27 fire crews were tackling the blazes, which started within ten minutes of each other shortly after 3am.

Police and firefighters have been called to reports of an apparent spree of arson attacks across Oxfordshire, including at council buildings and a funeral home.

Emergency services have confirmed that three separate blazes were being tackled across a small strip of the countryside between Benson and Crowmarsh Gifford, near Wallingford.

In a statement, Thames Valley Police said: "At this stage the police investigation is focusing on all three fires being linked and are believed to be suspicious.

"It is believed that a vehicle collided with the South Oxfordshire District Council building prior to the fire.

"There are cordons in place at all three locations and residents and motorists are asked to avoid these areas.

"Nobody has been reported injured at this time as a result of these fires; however, following these fires the structures of the buildings affected are being examined for safety.

"A 47-year-old local man has been arrested on suspicion of arson and is currently in custody.

"This is being investigated as a criminal act and is not thought to be linked to any terrorist activity."

The South Oxfordshire and Vale of White House district councils have been forced to set up a temporary website after the “major fire” affected their online networks.

“Most services will be affected,” the councils said in a statement. “[We] are putting a business continuity plan into place to make sure the effect on the most important front line services is kept to a minimum.”

The first blaze was reported at a thatched house in Roke Marsh at 3.11am. At 3.20am, four crews were called to a funeral parlour in Benson Lane,Crowmarsh Gifford.

And also at 3.20am, a third blaze was reported at the district council offices in the same road as the funeral parlour.

David Etheridge, chief fire officer for the service, said the fires all “occurred within a very short timeframe”.

“These are ongoing incidents and our firefighters are working hard to get the fires under control,” he said. “At this stage I am unable to state what the causes of the fires were - this matter is currently in the hands of Thames Valley Police, with whom we are working.”

Source Independent additional reporting PA

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