A FAMILY – and their nine pets – have been left homeless after their house caught fire.

Firefighters rushed to the property at Glenwood Avenue, Westcliff, to tackle the blaze which broke out about 6.30pm on Tuesday.

After the fire was extinguished, at about 8.15pm, five dogs, two guinea pigs, a lizard and a snake were all rescued from the property. All nine of the pets were unharmed.

A neighbour told how thick black smoke spread into several nearby properties, making it difficult to breath.

She said: “I was looking after my siblings and suddenly heard the sound of kids screaming outside but didn’t think anything of it as there’s always noise around here.

“Then I started to smell smoke. I went into the garden and saw flames in the back room of the house a couple of doors down, and loads of smoke was coming out and spreading.

“My younger brother has asthma and was finding it difficult to breathe so we had to get out.

“Then one of the girls who lives in the house, she must be around 15-years-old, knocked on the door and was crying asking for some water because she’d burnt her arm, so I went and got a her a bowl of cold water and a flannel.”

Fire crews arrived promptly and worked hard to extinguish the flames, which started as a result of an incense stick catching alight to bedding in a downstairs bedroom. The fire then spread to the conservatory.

Two of the occupants, believed to be teenagers, were treated for smoke inhalation at the scene and were left in the care of the ambulance service.

Sandra Livingstone, 42, of Glenwood Avenue, said: “The kids were screaming and visibly upset.

“As soon as firemen came you could smell the smoke so we just stayed inside.

“We couldn’t believe how long they were out there for. It was quite scary stuff.”

Watch manager, Gary Finan, urged residents to take extra care around candles, adding that the end of an incense stick is like a lit cigarette.