Published: 16:55, 13 August 2019
| Updated: 17:04, 13 August 2019
Arsonists are being blamed for a fire which swept through a historic hospital last night.
The blaze broke out in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Folkestone and spread to three floors of the derelict building.
Crowds gathered outside as 40 firefighters on eight engines tackled the flames, with smoke being seen for miles around the town.
By 9am this morning, Kent Fire and Rescue Service reported that the blaze was out and said there were no casualties.
An hour later, police forensics launched their probe into the incident at the former community hospital, which opened more than 100 years ago and has fallen into major disrepair over the last decade.
It has now been confirmed that the cause of the fire is being treated as suspicious.
A spokesman said: "Kent Police is investigating a fire in a disused hospital building in Folkestone.
"Officers were called to the scene in Radnor Park Avenue at 8.49pm on Monday by Kent Fire and Rescue Service.
"The cause of the fire is currently being treated as suspicious."
The building has become a health and safety risk in recent years.
As well as the fresh fire damage, the building has suffered repeated vandalism including smashed windows and graffiti.
Walking past the site earlier today, Malcolm James, from Cheriton, said: "I didn’t see the fire but I smelt it in Cheriton.
"It’s such a shame - it is a beautiful building. Our daughter was born there and it’s got a lot of history.
"I don’t know about the fire but the building had certainly been vandalised before."
Over recent months, work has been taking place at the hospital in preparation for demolition work.
Plans include converting the main hospital building, while the redundant outbuildings and extensions will be torn down to make room for more homes.
Somebody who works on site but wouldn’t be named, said the construction team are now unable to access the building until a proper investigation has been carried out.
He added that the cause was suspected arson.
The fire has not affected clinics in the adjoining newer part of the building.
Police are now appealing for witnesses to come forward - anyone with information about the fire is asked to call Kent Police on 01843 222289 quoting 46/155696/19.