TERRIFIED families fled to safety as a a fierce blaze took hold of their homes.

Fire engulfed the roof of two family homes in Jena Close, Shoebury, in the early hours of Tuesday.

Halstead Gazette:

Scene - fire crews attended after neighbours heard 'explosions'

Judy Pearce, whose home was hit by the blaze, screamed at everyone to get out before firefighters swiftly arrived at the scene to battle the blaze.

Judy, 60, who has commended the fire service for its response, said: “We heard a crackling popping noise at about 5.45am, so we looked outside to see what it was and saw the fence ablaze.

“We quickly screamed at everyone to get out and made sure our neighbours were out safely, before the fire service arrived 15 minutes later.”

Speaking of her anguish, Judy said: “We have nothing now and we’re just devastated, we’ll be staying in a nearby hotel until further notice.

“Thankfully we’ve had the brilliant support of our neighbours who have given us clothes and storage while everything is being sorted.

Halstead Gazette:

Damage - the home was gutted by the blaze

“Everybody has been so brilliant and we can’t thank the fire crews enough. If they didn’t get here when they did I don’t know what would have happened.”

An investigation into the cause of the fire, which has burnt through the back and roof of both properties, is now being carried out.

A 30-year-old neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We were woke by what sounded like a car crash – I looked outside and saw there had been an explosion so I quickly called the fire brigade and everyone was screaming at each other to evacuate.

“It all went up so quickly - we think it started in the garden the night before and just spread to completely burnt the back of both houses overnight night. Luckily, the front of the houses escaped the blaze, but the roof of one has just collapsed entirely.

“We weren’t allowed back in our own house for quite some time and they were using a crane to put the flames out. We were very lucky it was only two houses that caught alight.

“It was really hard to watch, all the neighbours were outside helping and showing their support.

“Massive hats off to the fire service who were here within minutes.”

Neil Patel, 62, added: “It sounded like an explosion so I looked out and just saw the smoke. Other neighbours had already called the fire brigade so by the time I got out they already had three fire engines at the scene and had men on a platform watering the house. The roof was completely gutted.”

“My thoughts are with the people who live there in this horrible time.”