A DOG groomer’s salon was filled with smoke after yobs started a blaze in a bin storage unit.

Denise Thorne and several other business owners narrowly escaped severe damage to their properties in Benfleet after the fire broke out.

The blaze, which has been recorded as intentional, happened in the storage unit behind Dee-lightful Dogs salon at the junction of Church Road and Manor Road.

Ms Thorne, 37, who owns the business, said she was at work as normal when she started to smell burning.

Braintree and Witham Times: Worried - Denise ThorneWorried - Denise Thorne

She said: “I was at work doing what I do, when all of a sudden I smelt burning, and at first I thought something was alight in my shop.

“I had a mooch around and went to the back and looked out onto the yard and saw flames going up from the shed.

“I had dogs in my shop, the hairdresser next door watched them so I could move my car, then the fire brigade showed up.

“I can still smell the smoke now.

“It wasn’t my shed, it was a communal shed where shops put all their rubbish into.”

A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said the fire had been started intentionally.

Essex Police has launched a probe after getting reports that six people were seen entering the shed before the fire.

Thankfully, the fire did not spread to any neighbouring buildings or vehicles, but the entire shed as been destroyed and the remains taped off.

Ms Thorne’s salon, which she only opened this year shortly before the UK lockdown, has not suffered any serious damage.

She added: “It’s just a bit scary really.

“The fire brigade said that if the wind was blowing in the opposite direction on the day it would have been a very different story.

“My store is about 30 foot from the shed.

“If the wind was blowing differently it could have hit the shops and been very serious.”

A spokesman for the fire service said: “We were called to Manor Road, Benfleet, on Monday at 3.42pm and found bin stores alight.

“Two crews, from Leigh and Basildon, attended. The fire was fully extinguished by 4.28pm.

“The cause has been recorded as deliberate.”

Anyone with information should call police on 101 quoting reference number 42/117321/20.