Three people escaped a blaze on a houseboat in West Oxford during the early hours today.

Shortly before 3.40am, firefighters were called to the incident on the boat moored beside Osney Bridge on the Thames in West Oxford.

Firefighters found a "well-developed" blaze on the 20ft pleasure craft being used as a houseboat, with those on board escaping before they arrived.

The three occupants of the boat, and a neighbouring boater, were treated at the scene for burns and the effects of breathing in smoke and taken to hospital by paramedics.

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Station manager Guy Dunkley, of Slade Park fire station in Oxford, said: "Crews initially faced a challenging incident where a burning boat was loose from its moorings but due to the swift action of the crew the blaze was quickly brought under control.

"Unfortunately the damage to the craft was extensive, which hindered any salvage operations.

"At this time the cause of the fire is not known but police are in the process of conducting an investigation."

Following the incident Mr Dunkley advised boat owners to check their smoke alarms.

John Simmonds, who lives on neighbouring boat One Old Peculier, said he pulled two people from the river after getting them to jump off the white cruiser.

He said: "I was asleep on my narrow boat and I heard a commotion.

"Then I heard 'help, save us!'"

Mr Simmonds added that although he was able to help rescue his fellow boaters he was not able to save the dog on board.

"The people sadly had a 14-year-old collie on board. I failed to get the dog out but it was not making any noises so I think it had already been killed by the smoke."

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