RESIDENTS in a sheltered accommodation block told how they are living in fear after fire alarms failed to sound when a blaze broke out.

The fire at Spa Court, in Spa road, Hockley, which broke out in the early hours of the morning, is believed to have been caused by someone falling asleep without putting out their cigarette.

Alarms went off in just five of the 48 flats.

Residents claim they had already complained to Sanctuary Housing, which operates the block and connected bungalows, about the fault. The fire alarms have allegedly been out of order for six weeks.

Joy Lawrence, 72, moved to Spa Court 12 years ago. She was one of the residents who were evacuated.

She said: “It must have been about 3.30am. The fire alarm started going off which woke me up.

“Sometimes they sound when someone has burnt some toast, but I knew it must have been a real fire because of what time it was.

“I got outside and realised that only five of us had been woken up and evacuated.

“The whole of the top floor were not alerted.

“It’s really worrying that some of the alarms didn’t work. They are all on the same system so it doesn’t make sense.

“This time the fire was in one of the bungalows, but if it had been in the main building, it could have been very dangerous. We are all very concerned about it.”

The blaze, which broke out on Saturday, was put out before firefighters arrived.

Mrs Lawrence added: “The firefighters were not impressed that not all the alarms were working and they discussed it with the warden.

“It’s just not good enough. It’s been like this for at least 6 weeks and Sanctuary Housing are aware. Apparently they had to order a part in, but you would have thought they would rush it. They should not be taking this long to fix it.”

Joyce Allen, 84, slept through the blaze as her alarm failed to go off.

She said: “It is very worrying. I am one of the residents with no working fire alarm. My son was already going on about it, and with what happened on Saturday it has concerned us all even more.

“We were all asleep on the top floor and didn’t hear a single thing so it does seem very unsafe. Hopefully it will get sorted soon.”

A spokesman for Essex Fire Service said: “When fire crews arrived at the property they found that the fire was already out, and no action was needed by the crews. Crews left the incident at 3:52am.

“The small fire was found to have been started accidentally by a cigarette which had not been extinguished properly.”

Lynsey Squair, operations director of maintenance and reinvestment for Sanctuary Group, said the fire alarm system is in the process of being repaired.

She said: “We installed temporary smoke alarms in a number of communal locations at Spa Court when the fault with part of the system was discovered.

“We expect the faulty system to be repaired and fully operational again early next week.

“When visiting the scheme to carry out the repairs, our contractors discovered that additional parts were needed which had to be sourced before they could complete the work.

“We have provided residents with updates on the situation and apologise for the length of time it has taken to resolve this problem.”