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5 March 2011, 09:10 | Updated: 9 March 2011, 15:34
Dozens of firefighters were called to a fire in Southend late on Friday night.
It broke out close to midnight at a large semi detached property split into two flats on Prince Avenue and led to road closures on the eastbound stretch of the A127.
Divisional Officer Martin Powell, incident commander, said: "The fire was called in by an off duty officer who managed to get everyone out of the property after raising the alarm.
"First crews at the scene were faced with a fully developed fire and they did an excellent job in acting swiftly to prevent spread to the adjoining property. Flames were already through the roof and about to break through but thanks to their quick thinking in getting inside the next door house and holding back flames, that house was saved.
"Unfortunately the two flats in the fire affected house were destroyed by fire and collapse.
"A couple and their two children suffered slight smoke inhalation and shock and have been taken to hospital as a precautionary measure. A second couple,a dog and two parrots have been left in the care of the Red Cross Fire Support team.
"All indications are that the cause of the fire was accidental but we are still completing our work here."