A FAMILY was saved but a fish and chip shop was gutted by smoke and flames.

Firefighters were called to Ideal Fish Bar, Rayleigh Road, Eastwood at about 4am yesterday after rags soaked in hot oil were discarded in the kitchen.

The crews, from Rayleigh Weir and Leigh, were called after a family living above the shop reported smoke setting off their fire alarm.

A neighbour said: “We woke up in the middle of the night and heard the alarms going off.

“We could not see much of what was happening.

“But there is a couple with a young child who live in the flat upstairs.

“I think they also have another baby on the way.

“It’s so sad that it’s happened to them, hopefully no one was hurt.”

The fire is understood to have started inside the kitchen of the fish bar.

When crews arrived the shop was thick with smoke throughout.

After an hour of tackling the fire, the fire crews were able to put it out at around 5.05am.

A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: “The cause has been recorded as accidental.

“It started after discarded rags soaked with hot oil began smouldering throughout the night and eventually caught fire.

“The shop has been completely destroyed by the smoke damage.

“The flats above did not suffer any damage.”

Staff and friends came together in the morning to begin the clean up job on the kitchen.

A large skip, filled with smoke damage waste was piled at the front entrance of the shop with the smell of smoke still acrid in the air.

The shop will be closed for the forseeable future while repair work is carried out.

Fortunately nobody was in the shop when the fire broke out and the working smoke alarm upstairs helped make sure nobody was hurt.

A neighbouring shop owner expressed his gratitude at the work of the firefighters to stop the fire spreading.

He said: “When I arrived this morning, I could not see anything out of the ordinary. It was not at all visible from the outside.

“It is very sad news to hear but thankfully other shops did not get hit by the fire.

“I believe everything was self contained inside the building where it started.”