ARSONISTS are thought to have started a fire at a bedsit in Southend.

Several tenants had to flee the flames in their pyjamas - and were left in the street for hours afterwards.

The fire began in the stairwell of the three-storey semi-detached property in Old Southend Road, yesterday morning.

Firefighters arrived on the scene at about 9am - two from Southend and one from Leigh.

They battled the blaze which took about an hour to fully put out.

No-one was hurt.

A police cordon was soon in place outside the property while fire investigation officers carried out an inspection inside.

Landlord Steve, who wouldn’t give his surname, told the Echo he did not know any details about how the fire started.

One of the tenants told the Echo: “We have been walking around for hours now with nowhere to go in our pyjamas, we haven’t even been able to wash and no one is telling us what’s going on. Apparently it was arson.

“I was woken up this morning by someone knocking on the door telling us we all had to get out. No smoke alarm went off.

“There was smoke everywhere and we were all coughing.

“The smoke alarms here go off when they want, they always go off for no reason but when it was needed they didn’t work.”

Police at the scene spoke to residents and tenants of the property.

A spokesman for Essex fire service, said: “Firefighters were called to a fire in the stairwell of a three storey semi-detached house in Southend.

“When they arrived, firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the property which was full of smoke to check if anyone was inside.

“Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire by 10.30am and confirmed that there was no-one inside.

“The fire was contained to the stairwell but some of the rooms have suffered smoke and fire damage. The cause of the fire is unknown at this stage.”

Police confirmed they are treating the fire as suspicious.

Call 101 with information.