A FAMILY of four fled from their Southampton home when a blaze broke out in the early hours of yesterday.

The couple and their two young girls ran from their house in Brook Road, Bittene, when the fire spread through the home shortly before 4am.

A motorbike parked next to the building caught alight and the flames quickly spread to the ground floor of the house.

Firefighters say the couple woke up to hear “popping and banging” and escaped to a neighbour’s house to call 999.

Crews from Hightown and St Mary’s fire stations arrived and used four breathing apparatus, two hose reels and a jet to tackle the flames and prevent them spreading other properties.

Victoria Oakey, 31, who lives next door, woke up to hear neighbours shouting and a series of "bangs" and which she likened to shots being fired.

She said: "I looked out and saw the reflection of the blaze in the windows opposite.

"The porch was well ablaze - I've never seen  anything like it."

After running out with her 18 month old son she discovered the family were trapped in their back garden so she returned home to open her side gate to free them.

She said: "The family were out in the rain and were all in shock. The girls were in tears. I told them to come with me. The neighbours  were fantastic and got blankets and warm clothes for the kids.

"At the time I was on autopilot but afterwards I felt quite emotional as it could  have been a lot worse if they had not woken up in time."

The neighbour who sheltered the family, who did not want to give her name, said she was awoken by sounds like "firecrackers" and said: "We could see the  fire on the porch and shouted their names out.

"It wasn't  nice to see. They were in the back garden and we were able to take  them in."

Another woman said : "It was very distressing. I feel sorry for the family.

"It's lucky they weren't hurt and that the wind didn't cause the fire to spread to other homes."

The building’s porch, lobby and stairway were badly damaged and the rest of the house was smoke logged.

There was also smoke logging to a property next door.

Hightown crew manager Steve Morris said that police had been called to the scene this morning.

He also said that crews had been hampered in the early stages with people parking on double yellow lines which meant the crews had to run 100m of hoses along the road to reach the property.