POLICE suspect a fire that destroyed at least one boat on the Oxford canal was deliberately lit.

A Thames Valley Police spokesperson confirmed that the force is investigating arson, after being called to a fire in Jericho at 7.10am this morning.

Residents woke up to the sound of sirens and thick smoke, as flames took over part of Castle Mill Stream, behind Canal Street.

Fire engines were parked outside the Old Bookbinders Ale House, and further along near Mount Place, as well as an ambulance.

Oxford Mail Camera Club member Tony Steele, who captured the scene on camera, said: "Two boats where on fire, I was woken up at about 7am by the sounds of the fire engines arriving.

"I could see black smoke billowing over the top of Whitworth Place, Canal Street."

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Another resident said there was a large amount of smoke in the area and said he could hear lots of sirens.

A photo of the fire posted on Twitter showed trees completely shrouded in smoke as firefighters hosed down the flames.

Emergency services had left the area by about 9am, having made the scene safe.

The police spokesperson said: "Police were called around 7.10am after a report that a boat was on fire.

"An investigation has started as it is suspected to be arson.

"Anyone with information can contact police on 101 or make a report online quoting reference number 431903314670."

Boaters on that stretch of the canal were threatened with eviction this year, after reports of antisocial behaviour.

One resident nearby said he understands the boats involved were not inhabited, and no-one was injured.