A FLAT was set on fire in a suspected arson attack in Heaton.

The ground-floor studio flat, in Park Road, caught fire at about 5.30pm last night, causing smoke damage to the whole ground floor, including other flats.

Witnesses said people were seen fighting in the street after the fire.

Firefighters from Bolton Central and Bolton North fire station spent about three hours putting the fire out and clearing up the damage.

A man, believed to be in his late 20s, suffered from the effects of breathing smoke, but declined to go to hospital.

It is understood the fire was was started deliberately using an accelerant.

The Bolton News also understands that somebody was assaulted before the fire started.

There have been no arrests in connection with the fire, but police and the fire service are investigating the incident.

Naomi Conway, who lives in the block of flats where the incident happened, was with her friend Lynn Cheetham, who lives across the street.

Miss Conway, aged 19, who is pregnant, had been in her flat just hours before the fire started.

She said: “Lynn looked out the window and said ‘look at all the smoke’ and she rang the fire station.

“It didn’t look that bad at first but it quickly became clear it was a fire.

“The neighbours were worried if I was in the building because I’m pregnant.

“There were punches being thrown and people being attacked. It’s shaken us up a bit, to be honest.”

Mrs Cheetham, aged 26: “I didn’t think it was anything serious at first, I thought it was just dust or something.

“It then quickly became clear that something had happened and then there were about 40 people outside.

“Tensions were running high and there were people shouting at each other. I got abused when I went to see what was going on.

“It was very dramatic, but it doesn’t surprise me really.”

Karl Jones, a resident of Park Road, aged 45, said: “I heard someone running shouting ‘It’s on fire! It’s on fire!’

"The amount of smoke coming out of there was unbelievable — the firefighters must have been there for a good three hours.

“We can’t believe this has happened. It’s a big shock.”

Ian Reed, watch manager at Bolton Central fire station, said: “We are unsure of exactly how the fire started, but it’s clear that somebody maliciously set fire to the flat.

“It’s thought that this was a fuel-based fire and that someone had been assaulted before the incident.

“The fire brigade are working closely with the police to establish the culprit.”

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: “Police were called to a home in Park Road following reports of a fire at 5.50pm on Tuesday.

"A joint investigation is being carried out by police and the fire service but the cause is thought to have been arson."

Anyone with information can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.