ARMY barracks were evacuated after fire spread through a building at Colchester Garrison.

Three fire crews and an aerial ladder platform were called to tackle a third floor fire in Merville Barracks at 2.30am this morning.

They spent three hours fighting the blaze and clearing smoke which had filled two floors while 50 people were cleared from the building.

Other nearby blocks were also cleared.

Station Officer Pete Donovan, from Colchester fire station, said: "When crews arrived approximately 50 people had already been evacuated to safety by the Army.

"Several neighbouring accommodation blocks had also been evacuated as a precaution.

"The fire was on the third floor of the block and had started in a bathroom and it had spread into the corridor of the accommodation wing. 

"The crews efforts contained the fire to the top floor and prevented the fire from spreading throughout the building."

The fire is believed to have been caused by an electrical fault.