ARSONISTS set fire to a Sheffield home belonging to a family of five - filling the house with black smoke.
Luckily, the couple, who are in their 30s, and their three daughters aged between six and 12, were away from their semi-detached property on Jenkin Avenue, Wincobank, when the arsonists struck in the early hours.
Neighbours said if the family had been at home they could have died in the blaze, which filled the home with thick smoke.
Firefighters were called to the scene by neighbours at about 3.20am yesterday.
A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “Three fire engines were called to the scene and found the front door was on fire and the house heavily smoke-logged.
“Two firemen wearing breathing apparatus carried out a search of the property to make sure there was nobody inside.”
Fire damage was restricted to the area around the door of the property, which was partially destroyed, but the upstairs windows were blackened by soot.
Police and fire service investigators were at the privately-rented property yesterday morning searching for evidence. Officers have not revealed how the fire was started.
One neighbour said: “They are a nice couple who are in their 30s with three daughters aged between six and 12. They keep themselves to themselves and I can’t think who would want to do this to them - they could have been killed had they been at home asleep at the time.
“It’s worrying for this to happen - we don’t get trouble on our street apart from kids setting fire to grass on the hillside up above.
Another resident, who lives a few doors down the street, added: “It’s awful for such a thing to have happened to them.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “We believe the fire was started deliberately and are treating the incident as suspicious. We would ask for anyone who was in the area at the time and saw something suspicious to contact us.”
■ Call 0114 220 2020 quoting incident 229 of yesterday or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.