BRAVE residents have been singled out for special praise after a popular fast food restaurant went up in flames.

Martin's Fish Bar, in Martin's Road, Halstead, has been left gutted following an accidental kitchen fire which saw q chip pan catch alight.

Firefighters spent 40 minutes tackling the blaze and were able to prevent the flames spreading to neighbouring buildings.

Crews then had to use a high powered fan to remove the thick black smoke which had engulfed the building.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said much of the chip shop, which forms part of an extension to a house, has been severely damaged by the blaze which started at 4.15pm on Tuesday.

Halstead Fire Station’s watch manager Steve Byrne has praised residents living on Martin's Road who helped look after the victims of the fire.

The chippy is a family-run business. Both owners were inside the building at the time it went up in flames, along with their two children.

Mr Byrne said: “A lot of the neighbours were really helpful and kind.

"Elizabeth Parker in particular was brilliant. She took the parents and children in and looked after them."

Ms Parker, who lives next door to the chippy, was one of the first people to help once she saw smoke coming from the building.

She described the scene as "like something out of a movie"

She added: “There was smoke billowing from the windows and everything was black inside.

“I ran inside shouting ‘Where are the children?’. The dad couldn’t speak because he was holding his breath and trying to throw water on the oil.

“Obviously he was in shock and panicking but the more water he used, the more smoke there was.

“I couldn’t really hear much because of all the crackling.

“The fire service were out on another mission when they were first called and it felt like we waited for them forever. It was probably only about ten minutes.

“They were brilliant with everyone. They took over and made sure everyone was OK.”

Paramedics treated three people at the scene for smoke inhalation.

One patient, believed to be the father, was then taken to Colchester General Hospital for further treatment.

Ms Parker played down her role in looking after the family.

She said: "The neighbours were all very helpful, making teas where they could and checking if we needed anything.

"We all tried to work together and just help out where we could.

"It's an awful thing to happen to the family. I can't imagine what it must be like for them. It's their livelihood and there home."