Police are hunting suspected arsonists who caused havoc when they set fire to 13 cars in usually peaceful Dorset neighbourhoods.
The apparently random incidents in suburbs of Poole and Wimborne Minster took place over a three-hour period and led to 65 calls to the fire service.
Residents in one street were awoken at 1.20am to find four vehicles ablaze and one woman was so frightened that she and her two young daughters fled their home in their pyjamas, fearing the flames would spread from her car to the building.
The cars affected included a Nissan Micra, Fiat Panda, BMW X5 and an Audi A1.
One witness, Poppy Baker, 57, a credit controller, said: “At about 1.30am I saw this orange glow from my window. A Ford Ka was burning and there was so much heat the paint on my front door was melting.
“The car belongs to a mother and she ran out the house in her pyjamas with her two young daughters. The fire engulfed the car very quickly. I’m told a man had been seen running away from a fire and someone said they saw a man jumping on the back of a motorbike. Everyone is in shock.”
Maggie Stirrup, 70, said: “I was woken up with my husband at around 2am. We looked out the window and saw our neighbour’s car on fire. It was right next to our door and my husband is in a wheelchair. I didn’t know how we would get out if it spread.”
Darren Trickett, 60, whose Land Rover Discovery was destroyed, said: “I woke up when I heard a bang, I didn’t know what was happening. I looked out the window and saw my car in flames. I was worried that the engine might explode.
“I ran out of the house to try to get the fire extinguisher from the boot but the central locking wouldn’t work. I just stood and watched. I just can’t believe it happened here.”
Chloe Torring, whose Nissan car was burnt out, said: “My neighbour woke me up and I saw my car burning and I just couldn’t believe it. Why would someone do something like this?’
Kayleigh Humphires, 33, said: “The night sky was just glowing orange. It’s like a war zone out there today, there are so many burnt out cars.”
The first blaze was reported in Wentworth Drive in Broadstone, a suburb of Poole, at 11.35pm, before three cars were torched on Oakley Hill, Merley, on the outskirts of Wimborne, at 1.08am.
At 1.20am, fire crews were called to New Borough Road in Wimborne to reports of four cars alight. The suspects then moved on to Poole Road where they torched two more vehicles at 1.24am and at 1.35am set fire to another car on the road, which spread to a home.
The rampage ended with two cars being set ablaze on Merley Ways, Poole, at 2.26am.
DS Simon Austin of Dorset police appealed for people with any CCTV that may have captured the arsonists to come forward. He said: “These incidents have affected a large number of victims in the wider Wimborne area and we are aware that this will cause concern.”
A Dorset and Wiltshire fire service spokesperson said: “Between 11.30pm yesterday and just before 2.30am, our service control centre received approximately 65 999 calls about vehicle fires in the Wimborne and Poole areas.”