Published: 11:40, 22 July 2021
| Updated: 16:24, 22 July 2021
Forensics have been called out after a spate of car fires in the early hours of this morning.
Detectives are in the St Dunstan's area of Canterbury where a car and a garage appear to have been torched.
Shocked residents were woken in the early hours of this morning by the sound of vehicles exploding outside their homes.
Footage posted on social media at about 2am shows one car engulfed in flames.
Footage shows car on fire in Bishops Way, Canterbury. Video: Sandie de Rougemont
And pictures taken this morning show the devastation caused - with several cars destroyed in the suspected arson attacks.
A 37-year-old man from Canterbury has been arrested on suspicion of arson and remains in custody.
Resident Sandie de Rougemont said the explosions "scared the life" out of people in Bishops Way and Somner Close.
She told KentOnline: "It was more like a scene from Beirut than sleepy old Canterbury."
Ms de Rougemont says she was fast asleep until she was woken by car alarms going off.
"I thought 'crikey, isn't anyone going to turn those damn things off' - then I heard what seemed like a firework going off," she said.
"I saw one car on fire at first. I looked a little closer and saw there was more flames over the other side of the road."
Another video showing two cars aflame. Video: Sandie de Rougemont
Ms de Rougemont, who runs the House of Agnes hotel in St Dunstans, says she called the fire service at about 1.20am before hearing several more explosions.
One of her neighbours was parked next to a flaming car and daringly dashed outside to move it away before the fire spread.
They then spotted another blaze in nearby Davidson Road.
"Neighbours started coming out and there were bits of car exploding all over the place," she said.
"It was more like a scene from Beirut than sleepy old Canterbury.
"Nothing happens here. Even the rubbish gets picked up on time."
Ms de Rougemont believes there must be more than one arsonist responsible for the destruction.
Margaret Simpson, 73, who lives in Bishops Way, was also woken by the sound of car alarms going off before seeing a bright red light shining on her conservatory walls.
"I heard banging and I thought it was fireworks, but it was a car going up," she said.
One of her neighbours sprung into action and grabbed a hosepipe while they waited for firefighters to arrive.
Police also descended on the scene, telling residents to stay inside and close their windows.
"It’s known as a quiet area," Ms Simpson added. "I’ve lived here since it was built 45 years ago and I’ve never known anything like it.
"We do have some students [living here] but it’s generally older people."
Her neighbour, Jenny Ellis, 78, said the experience was frightening was "frightening" and also described the area as a quiet place to live.
"We were worried because everything was exploding," she said.
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said they "thought someone was firing a shotgun" before they looked outside and saw the flames.
People posting on social media described the scene as like a "war zone" and others have suggested there were several fires across the city overnight.
A fire service spokesman has confirmed crews had several call-outs in the early hours.
One fire engine was sent to Orchard Street at about 1am to a car alight. Crews used a hose reel jet and water from a hydrant to tackle the fire.
Five minutes later firefighters were called to a garage fire in Cross Street. Two fire engines were sent to the scene and crews used a fog spoke and a high pressure fan to extinguish the blaze.
Then at about 1.23am crews were called to multiple cars alight in Bishops Way. Three fire engines were in attendance, and crews wearing breathing apparatus used compressed air foam to extinguish the fires, remaining at the scene until 3am.
They were also called to a car fire in Davidson Road at 2am.
A police spokesman said officers were called shortly after 1am following a report that a car was on fire in Church Street.
"Upon officers' attendance it was established that further car fires were taking place in Cross Street, Davidson Road and Bishops Way," the spokesman said.
"The fires were extinguished by Kent Fire and Rescue Service with no reported injuries.
"The incidents are currently being treated as suspicious and officers remain at the scenes carrying out enquiries.
"A 37-year-old man from Canterbury has been arrested on suspicion of arson and remains in custody."
An investigation is ongoing and anyone who witnessed what happened, or has CCTV or dashcam footage which may assist, is urged to call Kent Police on 01843 222289, quoting reference 46/129500/21.
You can also contact Crimestoppers in Kent anonymously by calling 0800 555111 or by filling in the online report form.
The fire service has also been approached for comment.