A HEROIC neighbour and a police officer helped rescue an 89-year-old woman when a fire broke out in her bungalow.

Residents spotted smoke billowing from Joan Wheal’s home in Highlands Road, Bowers Gifford, shortly before 11am on Tuesday and alerted emergency services. With the helpless woman trapped in a bedroom, Tony Fay, 51, who lives opposite sprung into action, breaking down the door with a police officer in a bid to get inside to help her.

He was beaten back by thick smoke and he and the officer left the rescue to firefighters from Basildon and Rayleigh who arrived moments later.

Reliving the drama, he said: “I got a wet towel for the police officer because of the smoke but there was little we could do until the firebrigade arrived. You couldn’t get in there.”

Karen Watts, 53, of Highlands Close, who lives opposite the bungalow was first to spot something wrong and alerted the police.

She said: “I was cleaning my windows when I noticed it. I thought it was strange when I saw the curtains down as they are normally drawn. It was only when I looked closer and saw smoke coming out of a window that I called the police and fire services.

Sub Officer Phil Owen, from Rayleigh Weir, said: "There had been a fire in the bedroom at the front of the house. Police officers were at the scene and they knew that someone was in the house.

"Firefighters found the woman on the floor in the other bedroom. The house was thick with smoke and the woman had suffered the effects of smoke inhalation.

"Crews carried the woman to safety.

"Once we knew she was safe we could quickly deal with the fire.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: “Police received a call at around 10.53am to an address in Highlands Road, following reports an elderly woman was believed to be trapped by fire in her home. Our officers were quickly on scene and assisted fire crews with finding the woman.

“She was taken to hospital suffering the effect of smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire is being investigated but it is not thought to be suspicious.”

A spokesman for the East of England ambulance service confirmed the woman was taken to Basildon Hospital suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by smoke inhalation.