Residents flee in suspect arson
FIREFIGHTERS evacuated city centre homes as 20ft flames engulfed a nearby building.
A flurry of 999 calls were made after fire broke out in a yard in Commercial Road at about 10.20pm on Wednesday.
It is the second suspected arson attack there in two months and police say they may be linked.
Last night, about 12 people had to be evacuated because of fears the fire may spread to flats in the Criterion Hotel building which adjoins the yard.
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Ten firefighters battled the flames, which destroyed a storage building belonging to Geoff Cook Picture Framing.
No-one was injured.
Station manager Nathan Bishop said: "The outbuilding was well alight when we arrived.
"The big danger was the fire spreading to other buildings.
"Whoever did this has put people's lives at risk."
Fire also broke out there on July 4, destroying a shed attached to the Criterion flats and residents said their lives felt threatened.
At the time Mr Cook, who is on holiday until next week, expressed relief his building had not been damaged as it contained valuable stock.
A spokesman for Gloucestershire police said both fires were being treated as suspected arson and a link was "not ruled out".
A third fire also broke out in the yard about a year ago.
A nearby shop owner who did not want to be named said: "The buildings are so close together and most be 200 years old.
"If one really goes up the whole triangle could go up.
"It's just luck so far that no one has been injured."
They said the fires were part of wider problems in the area.
"There's also been litter bins set alight and you see needles on the floor and beer cans.
"Most premises around here have been broken into."
Witnesses to last night's fire should call police on 101 quoting incident 424 of August 29.