Police believe an arsonist may be behind a series of suspicious fires which have wrecked buildings and caused thousands of pounds of damage at sports clubs in Reigate and Horley.

The three fires, all in the early hours and all within a week, are being looked at as possibly being linked by Surrey Police detectives.

The Force has said it is taking the fires “extremely seriously,” is stepping up patrols and is calling on local sports clubs, community groups and residents who live close to club premises, to be on their guard.

In the latest blaze, at the Old Reigatian Rugby Club in Park Lane, Reigate, flames badly damaged the main clubhouse. The alarm was raised at around 4am on Saturday (June 28), with police officers going to the scene to help Surrey Fire and Rescue Service.

The fire crews brought the flames under control and doused the fire, but not before it had caused what police called “significant damage” to the clubhouse.

A Surrey Police spokesman said an investigation is being carried out into the cause of the blaze, which is being treated as suspected arson at this stage.

There were no reports of any persons trapped or injured.

The fire came six days after flames tore through the £250,000 clubhouse of the Horley Lawn Tennis Club in Vicarage Lane, Horley.

The building was still under construction but was nearing completion, after four years of local fundraising by club members and a donation from Sport England.

The damage in the early hours of Sunday, June 22, wrecked the inside of the new clubhouse and caused the roof to collapse.

Fire crews from Reigate and Horley were at the scene for nearly five hours.

The blaze was followed four days later by another suspicious fire – this time at Churchfields Bowls Club in Church Walk, Reigate, at around 2.30am last Thursday (June 26).

The club's wooden pavilion was destroyed, along with all the equipment inside it.

The building had itself replaced the club's earlier pavilion, which had been destroyed by fire in 2000.

Appealing for witnesses or people with information to come forward, Detective Sergeant Stuart Underwood, from Reigate CID, said: "This is the third suspicious fire in the early hours at a sports club premises in under a week, and we are investigating the possibility they are linked.”

Det Sgt Underwood said: “Such criminality not only causes significant damage to what are important buildings for the local community, but is also extremely dangerous and can potentially put lives at risk.”

He said: "I would like to reassure local residents that we are taking these matters extremely seriously and we will have additional patrols and an increased policing presence in the local area.

"I would advise all local sports clubs and community groups, and residents who live close to them, to be on their guard and report any suspicious activity to police immediately. “I would also urge anyone who has information about any of these fires to contact us.”

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Surrey Police on 101, quoting reference P14186283. The independent charity Crimestoppers can also be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.