A FORMER Royal Marine heroically helped neighbours flee a raging fire that has left nine people homeless.

Thirty tenants were affected by the blaze at a block of flats, in Harberd Tye estate, Great Baddow, in the early hours of Saturday.

James Hawken, 27, woke at 2.30am to the sound of glass smashing and saw flames coming from the roof of the block opposite his bedroom window.

He put on some clothes and headed into the burning building.

He said the ten minutes that followed were a blur, but he remembered banging and breaking down about eight flat doors in search of anyone asleep or trapped.

Modest James, an electrician at CC Hydrosonics in Harlow, said: “People say hero, but I wasn’t that.

“All I did was get people out of there, it wasn’t like I had a cape on. I spent eight years in the Forces, somaybe it was systematic.

"I don’t know if it was instinct, it was a normal thing to do forme – you help people regardless of if it isn’t safe.”

Miraculously, no one was injured and everyone at the block was accounted for.

Housing association Moat, which manages the block of flats, said six will require significant repairs, and three neighbouring properties will be assessed further.

A spokeswoman said nine people required accommodation. She said: “We are working with these residents and with our local authority and housing provider partners in the area to provide suitable accommodation.”

Four fire crews attended the blaze, which took almost three hours to put out.

Sub-Officer Syd Barrett, from Chelmsford Fire Station, said: “When crews arrived, there was a welldeveloped fire in the roof void of the block which had broken through the roof of the building. We made sure the entire building had been evacuated.”

An investigation has been launched, but the fire is not being treated as suspicious.