ABOUT 50 residents evacuated their five-storey flat block while fire crews tackled an airing cupboard blaze which caused smoke and water damage to several properties.

Firefighters were called to the fire in School Lane, Mistley, at 4.42pm yesterday (February 6).

Paul Nutter, a Mistley parish councillor who lives in the flat block, said everyone evacuated the building after hearing the smoke alarm.

"There are 51 flats and we had to wait outside for three to four hours while the firefighters went in," he added.

"There was a fire in an airing cupboard - and it took firefighters a little while to find it."

A total of six fire crews from Manningtree, Dovercourt, Clacton and Colchester were called to the blaze with firefighters reporting one flat had fire damage, with surrounding properties suffering smoke and water damage.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Fire - a total of six crews attended the blaze 

Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire by 6.17pm.

Mr Nutter said about two of the flats are unlivable until they are made safe again.

He said a major main concern is that this has happened before.

He said: "We had a similar fire three years ago and that was also in an airing cupboard.

"I think it was a manufacturing fault with the water tank."

Harwich and Manningtree Standard:

Scene - the flat block the morning after the fire 

Mr Nutter said he wants to arrange for an electrician to check all of the flats in a bid to prevent a third fire breaking out in another airing cupboard.

An Essex County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "Firefighters worked to ensure the fire had not spread through any internal walls as well as clear the building of smoke.

"There were no reported injuries."

Fire investigation officers will carry out an investigation into the cause of the blaze.

Tendring councillor Carlo Guglielmi said: "It must have been a difficult experience for the residents and luckily nobody was injured.

"But it's incredibly sad, and I am not sure what a way forward will be and how soon it will be before some residents can live in their flats again."