RESIDENTS said they fear for their safety near a number of fires in flats near a neglected former amusement arcade.

Residents reported a fire in flats in Hawtree Close, Southend, at the junction with Kursaal Way at about 7.30pm on Saturday.

Fire crews from Southend, Leigh and Shoeburyness attended.

A fire service spokesman said: “Crews were called to a block of flats after reports of a fire on the third floor.

“On arrival firefighters reported there was a substantial fire in an enclosed refuse chute room and a sofa and other combustible materials were alight.

“Firefighters worked quickly to extinguish the fire by 8pm and then used fans to ventilate the area.

“The cause of the fire has been recorded as accidental or deliberate, both possibilities.

“The refuse room and surrounding stairwell have both suffered from fire and smoke damage.”

One resident said there have been a number of fires in the area.

She said: “There is a block on the Kursaal skelter steps that keeps getting set on fire.

“There has been a fire three or four times every Saturday.

“Tonight it was really bad, the stairwell and bin chute was on fire.

“There are loads of fire engines on site at the moment but it’s happening every week.

“It’s not fair on the people who live in the block.”

The nearby iconic Kursaal has become a magnet for problems since it shut its doors in April.

However, Kevin Robinson, Southend councillor responsible for business, culture and tourism, said discussions had taken place over the listed building’s future.

The site has attracted squatters and residents have also reported drug-taking and anti-social behaviour in the area.

The resident added: “It is deliberate, also the block fire alarm didn’t go off, so not many people knew.”

Another resident said: “This happens every Saturday either in Carousel Steps or the block next to it.

“The alarms are loud and constantly ringing.

“It’s distressing and frightening knowing the block you live in is on fire.”