FAMILIES were evacuated from a block of flats in Bridgwater after a discarded cigarette caused a fire to break out in the early hours.

The blaze started between the cavity ceiling and bathroom in a ground floor flat in Standish Street shortly after midnight.

Fifteen firefighters were called to the scene after two young women in the flat spotted smoke, and all eight families, including young children, were evacuated from the block.

Crews dismantled the wall to get to the timber frame which was smouldering and put the fire out while the Fire and Emergency Support Service was drafted in to look after the residents.

By around 3am the situation was under control and all the residents, apart from the people in the ground floor flat and the flat immediately above, were allowed to return to their homes.

Last night’s incident happened near the scene of a major fire at a block of flats several years ago.

Dave Barrett, watch manager in charge of the operation, said: “There appeared to be cigarette ends discarded in the air vent which had caught alight in the timber frame.

“It could have been very serious because this was a block of flats with a number of families and young children inside.

“Fortunately everyone was ok despite being out in the cold after being turfed out of their beds in the middle of the night.

“The two young females in the ground floor flat were a bit shocked and are now staying with family.

“It was fortunate we were notified early to minimise the impact because recent history tells us fires in these types of buildings can develop rapidly.

“It is vital people discard their cigarettes safely, particularly in rented premises like this.”

For more information about fire safety visit www.dsfire.gov.uk