DOZENS of firefighters were called to tackle a large blaze in the roof of a shop in Southend high street.

Police and fire crews cordoned off the road after the fire broke out in the roof of H&M at about 6.10pm this evening.

Witnesses reported white and grey smoke billowing into the air as ten fire crews worked hard to extinguish the flames.

Benjamin Whiteside, 27, from Rochford, said: “I was shopping in Victoria Shopping Centre with friends when we noticed the smoke coming from the high street so went to see what was going on.

“You could see smoke coming from the roof and there were firefighters on scene.

“In a matter of minutes more fire engines had arrived and they were using equipment to elevate them up into the air so they could spray their hoses on top of the building.”

A section of the high street was closed to the public for more than hour while more crews rushed to the scene.

The fire service drafted in two aerial ladder platforms from Chelmsford and Grays to get above the fire.

Alice Martin, 38, of Woodgrange Drive, Southend, said: “The firefighters were impressive to watch - they were doing a great job, especially in this hot weather.

“I hope it hasn’t done too much damage so the shop can stay open - the last thing we need is more empty shops on the high street.”

By 7.30pm, the incident commander reported that fire crews using breathing apparatus had gained entry into the building and made their way to the fourth floor of the building where the fire had broken out.

The fire service said the crews were making “steady progress”.