A SELFLESS neighbour has described the moment she burst into a burning flat to save a resident while her own home went up in smoke.

Childhood sweethearts Alice Nevard and fiancé Paul Maloney woke on Saturday morning to see smoke underneath their door and the alarm sounding.

After getting their pets to safety the pair began pounding on neighbours’ doors to wake them up and called 999.

Without a second thought,

Alice, 29, made her way into the burning flat at Attlee Gardens, Colchester, scared her neighbour was still inside.

She said: “I couldn’t get much further than the hallway because the heat was too intense.

“There was so much smoke. I could see the fire and it spread quickly. There was crackling and popping, and bits of wood flying out. It was horrible.”

Alice’s pet hamster Dobby, “survived the shock” of being thrown over a balcony in his cage. Dobby plus cats Thor and Scarlett have also been temporarily rehomed.

Alice has been treated twice for breathing in smoke because of severe asthma.

The trauma of what happened has been worsened by her brother’s death in a fire.

She said: “I was petrified because pictures of my brother and dad were in the flat, but the fire brigade let me run back in while the fire was raging next door to get them.“My dad died in 2014.”

She was able to get in and grab them.

Their neighbour was not inside the flat at the time and other flats were safely evacuated.

She said: Another neighbour was on holiday so had no idea.

“The fire brigade are the real heroes.

“But I’d like to think what we did, is what anyone would do.

“There were neighbours we’d never spoken to but they treated us like old friends and looked after us all.

“There was a real sense of community. We wouldn’t have been able to cope without it.”

Four homes were affected by the fire.

Although some have been let back into their home, they are without gas and electricity, Alice explained.

The main concern for the pair, who resparked their childhood romance after losing contact for 22 years, is food and money.

A Go Fund Me page launched by a Golden Noble Hill resident has reached half its £600 goal.

She said: “I don’t care about material possessions, I just want to be able to feed myself.”

  • A 34-year-old man, from Colchester, was bailed yesterday after being arrested on suspicion of arson.