A FAMILY were said to have had a "lucky escape" after a leaky ceiling alerted them to a fire in the early hours of the morning.

The fire service have said the family “wouldn’t have got out” if the fire had happened just hours before.

A family member was up early getting ready to go to work this morning in their home in The Dashes, in Harlow, when they noticed water dripping from the downstairs ceiling.

After investigating, she realised the upstairs was beginning to fill with smoke and there was a fire in an airing cupboard on the landing.

She called 999 at 5.45 this morning and two fire engines from Harlow Station made their way to the scene.

Firefighters were initially delayed in attending the incident due to “inconsiderate parking”.

Harlow Fire Station watch manager, Stephen Allen, said: "Inconsiderate parking made it difficult for us to get to the property.

“Thankfully we were able to get one fire engine through but the crew on the other fire engine had to make the last part of the journey on foot.

"In an emergency situation seconds matter, so we urge the public to think twice about how and where they are parking. If there's any chance an emergency vehicle can't get through then park somewhere else."

When firefighters arrived at the property they quickly surrounded the fire, extinguished it and cleared the house of smoke.

The cause of the fire was found to be because of an electric heater which had been left on in the cupboard.

The plastic piped in the airing cupboard had melted from the fire, which caused the water to begin leaking and soaking through the ceiling.

Mr Allen said: "This house didn't have any working smoke alarms, so it was very lucky the woman had got up early.

“If it had happened at 3am it's likely the family wouldn't have known and wouldn't have got out.

"The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone to protect their family is to have a working smoke alarm on every level of their home. It will alert you to the first sign of fire and probably save your life."