A FEROCIOUS fire which ripped through a house in only 20 minutes may have been started by burglars before they fled the scene.
More than 15 firefighters, three fire crews and a sniffer dog were called to St Mary's Square, South Ealing Road, just after 5pm on Wednesday.
All three tenants were away but one woman returned home to find firemen and police out-side her property and said she was upset and amazed at what had happened.
The 29-year-old accounts assistant, who had been renting the property for 18 months with another couple, said: "It's hard to take it all in.
"My friend who is up north rang me and said there was a fire in the house and I thought she was joking.
"I was stuck in traffic on my way home and I told myself it wouldn't be that badly damaged, but it was really upsetting when I saw it.
"We have to wait and see if there is anything left undamaged inside the property."
Gregory Zhinchin, who lives next door, said everything was up in smoke within 20 minutes.
The 45-year-old said: "I wasn't at home at the time but my sister's husband said he saw a fire from the building.
"We don't know what happened or why, but we know that within 20 minutes everything was gone. These houses are old and tend to have dry wood and are not like the new builds which have fire proofing throughout but it is lucky noone was at home at the time."
Martin Cemm, watch manager at Ealing Fire Station said the house was severely damaged by the fire, smoke and heat, but was brought under control within 45 minutes.
He said: "There was a lot of damage and 18 firefighters attended the scene, and a fire dog, to sniff out any accelerants due to the unusual nature of the fire.
"We believe the fire started in the ground floor but we are still investigating.
"This property did not have a smoke alarm, and if they did, the fire may have been caught in the early stages and I want to stress the importance of fitting alarms in properties."
Detective Sergeant Bunkall, of Ealing CID said: "This appears to be a suspected burglary and then the place was set on fire. We believe they made their entry through the back and we will be examining CCTV footage and will continue our inquiries."