“DISGUSTING” arsonists have been lambasted by the leader of Southend Council after a fire at a city centre tower block was found to have been started “deliberately”.

Police have launched an arson investigation into a blaze at the Quantock tower block which saw key roads shut off while firefighters tackled it.

A fire in the eighth-floor drying room led to black smoke billowing out of the window.

Now, both the police and the fire service have confirmed they believe the blaze was started deliberately and a police investigation is underway. 

Residents have raised concerns that homeless people and drug users are accessing the block of flats and sleeping in communal areas - such as the dryer room. 

Council leader Tony Cox has branded those who started the fire “morons”.

He said: “It’s just disgusting. It’s dreadful. Who would do that? What moron would set fire to a tower block?

“Have they not heard of Grenfell Tower?”

Echo: Smoke blackened the side of the building in Southend city centre.Smoke blackened the side of the building in Southend city centre. (Image: Gaz de Vere)


No arrests have yet been made, although an investigation into the cause of the blaze continues.

Mr Cox added: “I just hope and pray the police catch whoever did it quickly. What utter morons.

“There were no injuries, no fatalities, and no need for evacuation.

“That is testament to the effective fire safety measures in place in the building and the skills of the emergency services.”

A seventh-floor resident told the Echo people have been entering the block illegally and “sleeping” in the dryer rooms.

They said: “I’ve heard people have been sleeping in the dryer room, so it’s been locked to us residents.

“But people break in.”

Kevin Hazlewood, director of operations (property) at South Essex Homes, said: “We will continue to work closely with our partners in the police and fire service and await the outcome of their investigations into this incident.

“In the meantime, we have taken steps to reassure residents in the block that the fire safety measures we have in the building did their job in containing the fire to the drying room.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We are investigating the cause of a fire in the drying room on the eighth floor at Quantock, in Chichester Road.

“We are treating the investigation as arson.”