FAST-ACTING staff rescued terrified pets from a burning veterinary surgery this afternoon.

Vets and nurses gathered four cats and three dogs into boxes and evacuated them after a suspected electrical fault sparked a fire at Medivet in Eastwood at about 1.40pm.

Lisa Pethurst, fire safety officer for the vets in Eastwoodbury Lane, said: “It was a good team effort. We got all the animals out and all the staff out.

“As soon as we saw there was smoke we dialled 999 and evacuated.”

The fire melted one room, destroying thousands of pounds of equipment and almost causing an explosion as flames neared the building’s gas boiler.

The 24-hour surgery’s 16 staff wrapped the evacuated animals, which included a cat being treated for a fever and a dog which had a foreign body inside it, in blankets and comforted them in the car park as firefighters in breathing masks tackled the blaze.

Station Officer Al Green, of Southend Fire Station, said: "Fire crews from Southend and Leigh were called to a fire in the vets this afternoon.

“The fire had broken out in the kitchen on the first floor of the building. Crews wearing breathing apparatus entered the building to extinguish the fire.”

For the full story see Tuesday's Echo.