Eight homeless people have been rescued from burning flats in the Manningham area of Bradford.

Fire station chief at Idle Steve Ockerby praised his team after they burst into the unoccupied block of flats in Oak Avenue to evacuate seven middle-aged men and a woman.

Flames had already engulfed the roof space of the three-storey building when firefighters were called to the scene by someone using a mobile phone at 11pm on Thursday.

Six firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the building to search for those reported to be trapped inside.

The fire had broken out on the third floor and spread to three flats. It had been burning for some time before the alarm was raised but no-one inside had been able to flee the property.

The task facing the fire crews was complicated because the building contains about 20 separate flats and various people were located and led to safety from different floors.

Watch commander Mr Ockerby said firefighters had to break down a door because some of the group had become locked inside a room close to the fire.

The operation lasted into the early hours of yesterday and required the help of a third fire crew, using an aerial ladder platform from Bradford fire station, to extinguish the fire. Fifteen firefighters were involved at the height of the blaze.

Those who were evacuated from the property were taken to hospital for precautionary checks. All eight are belie-ved to be of Eastern European origin.

Mr Ockerby said: β€œIt was a very severe fire involving mattresses, furniture and fittings, and the firefighters who attended from Idle and Bradford fire stations did an excellent job to get all eight people out in what was a tough job.”

The burned-out shell of a charred third floor flat was visible from the street yesterday morning. Areas of roof, windows and panelled walls had been ripped apart by the flames.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.