Wiltshire Police have charged a 57-year-old man with arson with intent to endanger life after a blaze broke out at a property near Melksham yesterday.

Fire ripped through number 32 Eden Grove, Whitley, at about 12.30am on Saturday.

No-one was injured in the blaze but a couple and two primary school-aged children were forced to flee their home as the inferno spread from the house next door.

The man was arrested after the incident, and was taken to Melksham Police Station for questioning.

Neighbour Peter Humphries watched in horror as the street was engulfed in thick smoke after he was woken by the home owner whose house was on fire.

He said: "He came up to my house and banged on the door, so I went down and he asked me to look after his two dogs as his house was on fire.

“I looked out and the street was full of smoke, I couldn’t believe it, it was horrible.”

Local councillor Terry Chivers, who lives in the same street just a few hundred yards away, said: “The house is very badly damaged; the roof is gone and it’s one of four in a terrace and the other tenants’ homes aren’t in a good state.

“All the floors of the house have gone. I would imagine it will have to be demolished.

“The tragic thing as well is that the people next door have been affected; they have been re-housed.”

The block of four terraced homes affected are owned by Selwood Housing with the house in which the fire started and the adjoining house both badly affected, and two other properties smoke damaged.

“I’m just shocked,” added Cllr Chivers.“It’s really, really sad.”

The man, named locally as John Marshall, is to appear at Swindon Magistrates' Court tomorrow.