FIREFIGHTERS have praised the brave actions of two men who ran into a building to save a woman in her seventies, moments before the building collapsed.

Neighbours Martin Andrews and Glen Ellis were at their homes on Canvey when they were alarmed by an explosion close by in Central Wall Road.

Residents in the area rushed out into the road to see what had caused the loud bang, with some confusion about which property it had come from.

Mr Andrews said: “At first we panicked because we thought our own roof had collapsed or something had hit the house.

“No-one had a clue what was going on. My wife’s family had seen the roof of the building in the garden behind ours go up and then slam back down. They assumed the wind had caught it, but it was nowhere near windy enough.”

However, it soon became clear that a nearby outbuilding, used as an arts and crafts studio had partially collapsed - a situation that became critical when another neighbour explained that there was somebody still in the building.

Mr Ellis said: “I was standing at the opposite fence to Martin - as soon as we realised there was someone in there, we both jumped over the fence to help without really thinking. Initially we couldn’t even see anyone and at that point we still didn’t know what happened, but we had to do something.”

It eventually became clear that a woman in her seventies was trapped beneath the rubble of the building, while a gas leak had sprung up close to the site of a small fire.

Mr Ellis said. “When you see things like that you just think the worst, brace yourself for an explosion and just try to get out as quickly as possible.”

The two men managed to pull the woman to safety with seconds to spare, before a second explosion caused the building to collapse completely and burst into flames.

They cared for her until paramedics arrived. Leigh Station Manager Dave Walpole recently presented both men with certificates, following the explosion on Sunday, June 17, to recognise their efforts.

He said: “I have absolutely no doubt this incident could have been much more serious for the lady involved had Martin and Glen not acted the way they did. To recognise that a complete stranger is in danger is one thing, but to then risk their own lives to help her without hesitation is genuinely humbling. They are both a credit to their communities.”