Birmingham & Black Country

Man dies in Willenhall flats fire

The scene of the fire
Image caption A number of people living in the flats had to be rescued in the fire

A man has been found dead after a fire in a West Midlands block of flats which led to up to 50 people being evacuated from their homes.

West Midlands Police said emergency services were called to Southey Close, Willenhall, during the early hours.

It is thought the blaze had spread to the flats from a wheelie bin found next to the building, police said.

A 20-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of committing arson with intent to endanger life.

The man who died at the scene has yet to be formally identified, police said.

A number of people had to be rescued from the flats after the fire started at 02:15 BST.

'Really frightening'

A police spokesperson said between 40 to 50 people had been evacuated from their homes and were now staying with friends or family until officers finished investigating the building.

Daniel Sharples and Rachel Pettiford, who both live in the flats, said they had escaped from their home with their seven-year-old daughter.

Image caption Daniel Sharples and Rachel Pettiford escaped from their flat with their baby daughter

Mr Sharples said: "I looked out of the window and the whole flat was ablaze.

"We rushed out and put our little daughter in our neighbour's car and we just waited around for the fire brigade to come around."

Ms Pettiford said: "It was really frightening. With a seven-month-old as well, I was wondering what was going to happen with her.

"I heard people screaming with the kids outside and it was horrible."

Police said another fire on Wychbold Way, which also appeared to have been started in a bin, was then reported.

No-one was injured, but a small number of people had to be rescued.

At 02:45 BST a third fire was seen by officers on patrol on Crab Lane where bushes were alight.

Det Insp Warren Hines said: "A number of scenes are currently cordoned off whilst we carry out forensic searches of the area.

"We now appealing for people in the community, or anyone who might know anything, to come forward with information to help our inquiry."

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