AN arsonist caused damage totalling thousands of pounds to a Yateley supermarket early on Sunday.

The fierce blaze, discovered at about 4.20am, swept through the roof of Waitrose in Tresham Crescent.

More than 70 firefighters, aided by three hydraulic platforms, took six hours to bring the blaze under control.

The fire wrecked the roof and severely damaged the first floor offices and staff canteen.

A Rushmoor fire spokesman said: "The fire was difficult to control because it was between the tiles and the metal sheeting."

The blaze is being investigated by Aldershot CID who have declined to say exactly how it was started.

An officer would only say that forensic experts had decided it was arson.

Detective Sergeant Alan Hastings, who is heading the inquiry, has appealed for information from people who saw anything suspicious near the store early on Sunday.

Witnesses should telephone Aldershot CID on 01252 324545.

The fire crews' efforts were praised on Monday by Christian Cull, head of Waitrose press and public relations.

"They did a brilliant job," he said. "Their professionalism, and the design of the building, helped to contain the fire."

Mr Cull was confident that the store would be re-opened in time for the Christmas shopping rush.

The shop floor suffered only a small amount of smoke damage, and the basement storage area was unaffected.

"We should be closed only for a short time," he said. "When we re-open customers will think they are coming into a brand new store."