A boarded-up guest house was nearly destroyed after a fire, believed to have been started by squatters trying to stay warm, spiralled out of control this morning.
Firefighters rushed to the Grenada Hotel in Lampton Road, Hounslow, to tackle the blaze at the back of the building. No one was hurt in the fire, which started at about 6.30am, but police are treating the incident as suspicious.
Iqbal Chaudhary, of neighbouring Bulstrode Road, said homeless people were always breaking into the building, which has been closed for about six months.
He claims squatters have plagued the area for years, dealing drugs, prostituting themselves and defecating in backstreets.
"The doors to the hotel are always getting broken but you can't say anything if you see people going in because they just start swearing at you," said the 45-year-old businessman. "We've had squatters using the garages behind us, including one woman who used to defecate all over the place, right next to my back yard.
"They're always leaving needles in the bushes and there's a big problem with prostitution on this road. I've been living here for 25 years and it never used to be like this."
Brendan Morris, of Heston Fire Station, said: "We suspect the fire was caused by homeless people trying to stay warm and we have informed the local authority."
He added that it was the first time firefighters had been called to the site.
The hotel's owners are in talks with council planning officers about restoring the building and are expected to submit a formal application soon.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers, free and anonymously, on 0800 555 111.