FRIGHTENED residents had to flee their homes after they were targeted in two arson attacks in Westcliff.

The fires were started close to gas pipes at Socata House, in London Road, and behind Tesco Express in the same street.

Residents had to be rescued by neighbours and fire crews.

Sixteen flats were evacuated at Socata House after the blaze was started at 11pm on Sunday, with a further 30 people from 15 flats told to leave their homes following the second fire at about 4.15am behind Tesco Express.

Gerald Calmus and his wife Daphne, both 79, live on the top floor of Socata House and she had to be helped down the stairs.

Gerald said: “A neighbour banged on the door shouting “get out, get out”.

“I went downstairs and could see the fire, I went back up to get my wife, but a younger resident brought her down.”

Daphne added: “It was frightening, we didn’t know what was going to happen.

“Luckily for us we’re back to normal.”

One resident, who asked not to be named, lost his motorbike in the fire and his car was also damaged.

He said: “There was smoke coming in the vents, but we are really grateful the alarms and fire doors all worked.

“I am more concerned someone has tried to kill us all.”

Three fire crews were called to the first fire along with two ambulances, two rapid response vehicles and an ambulance officer.

Aman in his fifties was treated for smoke inhalation before being taken to Southend Hospital for further assessment.

Two fire crews were called to the second fire, but no ambulances were required and no-one was injured.

Both incidents resulted in smoke damage to overhead flats and a joint police and fire investigation was launched.

As a result, a 26-year-old man, of no fixed abode, was arrested on suspicion of arson in Westcliff at 5am on Monday and remains in custody.

I’m not scared...I’m used to it!

THE fires are the latest incident in a long line of disturbances, according to neighbouring residents.

Alexandra Forge, 75, of Fleetwood Avenue, has lived there for more than 50 years and said she is not surprised by anything that happens any more.

The fire was lit at the rear of the Tesco Express store, with just a narrow alleyway separating the site from Mrs Forge’s property, but she was not concerned about the risk it posed.

She said: “It smelled like burnt cable. I was walking round the house thinking something was on fire inside.

“But it would take a lot more than that to scare anyone who lives around here, I’m for ever clearing up the alleyway when stuff is dumped there.

“My new fence was dented recently from an incident in the back alleyway as well”

Not everyone was so relaxed about the issue though, a resident of the flats above the Tesco store, who asked not to be named, has had enough of living in fear.

She said: “We weren’t evacuated, but it’s not the first fire here and I’m moving out soon.

“It’s worrying here with three children, there are black marks over walls in our stairwell because someone set off a firework in the electricity cupboard and there are groups of kids who hang around outside.”

The incident had no impact on trading for Tesco Express or any adjacent stores.