A FAMILY were rescued by firefighters after a blaze in block of flats trapped them in their home.

The fire, which consumed an unoccupied third floor flat in Warren Edge Court in Southbourne, spread into the adjoining staircase blocking off the only escape route for the two adults and three children in the neighbouring property.

Fortunately a group of builders at work on the other side of Church Road spotted the smoke billowing from the block at around 11.30am and called the fire service, before running over with a ladder to help.

Builder Paul Meeks, 32, who also lives near the block, said: “We saw a big thick plume of black smoke coming out of the other side of the building, I shouted to the guys to call the fire brigade and ran straight across.

“There was a lot of smoke in the staircase, there was clearly no time to muck about. I had to duck under it while banging on all the doors I could see and shouting for people to get out.”

Mr Meeks and his co-workers saw the family trapped in their flat and went up a ladder to try and help them, keeping them calm and informing them that help was on its way.

“We wanted to try and be as useful and helpful as we could,” he said.

The blaze was also called in by another witness, Jamie Cox, who assisted in the rescue.

"I rushed up the stairs in the flat but was blocked off by smoke. As I went downstairs, that's when I heard screaming from the family and acted quickly to get my work ladder from the van."

Six fire engines from across Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch attended the scene, along with ambulances and police officers, and the aerial platform from Westbourne.

Christchurch crew manager Dave O'Bryan was one of the first there.

“It was quite a serious fire with people reported as being trapped inside,” he said.

“We sent crews with breathing apparatus around one side to deal with the fire, and pitched our nine metre ladder on the other side to get the family to safety. We got the children out first, then the adults, then handed them over to the ambulance service.”

The family were treated for smoke inhalation, but were otherwise unharmed.

Mr O'Bryan praised the efforts of the builders.

“It was above and beyond what is expected. There were frightened children in that flat and they did a great job keeping the occupants calm.”

Dorset Fire area commander Tim Spring said it was “very good news” that no one had been injured in the fire. He said the cause was currently unknown and under investigation.

People at the scene were treated for smoke inhalation but did not have to be taken to hospital, he added.

The fire service confirmed that all in the building have now been accounted for.