THREE Hampshire families have had to be rehomed after a fire swept through a row of houses.

The blaze damaged eight homes in Hythe after flames were spotted coming from the one of the roofs, forcing residents to flee for their safety.

Neighbours banged on the door of the house where the fire had started, where those inside were eating breakfast, unaware that their roof was alight.

More than 40 firefighters descended on Elm Crescent, battling to get the fire under control, while residents watched on helplessly.

As the drama unfolded, the local community centre was transformed into a refuge for those left temporarily homeless.

Smoke and fire damage to three of the homes has forced three families into temporary accommodation, but fortunately the five other homes suffered only minimal damage.

Shamus Cotton, who lives opposite the homes, raised the alarm just after 9am yesterday, after spotting the flames billowing from the roof.

The 50-year-old lorry driver knocked on the door of great-grandmother Elizabeth Birks, 74, and her husband Barrie as they were eating their breakfast.

She said: “We had never spoken to the man who knocked on our door.

“I would like to say thank you to him. We would not have known anything about it had it not been for that man.

“I feel so lucky to be alive.

“We will remember July 30 for a long time.”

Incident commander station manager Glenn Bowyer said that Mrs Birks’ roof suffered 100 per cent fire damage, while the first floor had 75 per cent damage.

Two other homes were also badly damaged by fire and smoke.

He added: “I think the reaction of the fire crews and the action they took prevented any fire deaths.

“The actions of the neighbours should be congratulated as they raised the alarm and helped get residents out quickly.”

The cause of the fire is now under investigation.