An investigation has been launched into a suspicious flat fire in Moray.
One man was taken to hospital after the blaze broke out in a ground-floor flat on Low Street in Buckie in the early hours of Saturday.
Fire officers spent much of the weekend scouring the blackened premises for clues as to the cause of the fire, and last night a police spokesman confirmed that they believed foul play could be to blame.
Firefighters were originally called to the flat at 2am on Saturday, and a male resident – believed to be in his 30s – was rushed to Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin. His condition was not known last night.
Crews from Buckie and Cullen battled for about 40 minutes to get the blaze under control.
A police spokeswoman said last night: “The fire service asked us to attend the property to secure it in the early hours of Saturday, at about 3.30am.
“It has since been discovered that there will be a joint investigation into the fire, down to possible suspicious circumstances.
“The fire service will be leading on that, and we will assist.”
A spokesman for the fire service said the team completed their examination of the property at 2.30pm yesterday afternoon.
He added: “We were initially called to the property at 2.02am on Saturday, and fire engines from Buckie and Cullen attended.
“The stop message came back at 2.42am, and the final crew left the scene at 4.19am.
“Firefighters used two sets of breathing apparatus, a thermal camera and a hose reel to extinguish the fire – which was contained to the ground floor flat.
“One casualty was taken to hospital, and our fire investigation team began work on determining what caused it on Saturday morning.”
The two-storey building, which is on the A942 Buckie to Findochty road along the town’s seafront and opposite the Cluny fish shop, stands remote from any other premises on Low Street.
Signs of the blaze remained clearly visible yesterday, as windows in the affected property have been stained black and fire-damaged home furnishings can be seen from the street.
Windows at the rear of the building, which are thought to have shattered because of the heat inside, have since been boarded up.
The neighbouring ground floor flat, which was empty at the time, was not damaged.
Retiree John Edgley, who lives along from the burned out flat, said the area was predominantly quiet as it was mainly occupied by businesses.
But he said the constant police presence outside the venue throughout much of the weekend had aroused his suspicions that the fire could have been started deliberately.
Buckie councillor Gordon McDonald said the revelation the fire could have been caused intentionally would alarm residents.
Mr McDonald said: “That would be a big concern for folk, it’s the last thing you want to hear about and people would find it extremely worrying.
“If that does turn out to be the case, then I hope the perpetrator is caught fairly quickly.”