Residents living in flats above a row of shops in Sawtry had to flee their homes in the early hours of Thursday after a fire broke out in a greengrocer’s.

Smoke alarms woke people at about 2.30am last Thursday above Sawtry Vegetables, in Gidding Road.

The flats were evacuated as firefighters from Sawtry, Yaxley, Stanground and Huntingdon tackled the fire.

It had started in a store room at the back of the greengrocery, causing severe smoke and some fire damage to the shop.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze just after 4am. At least one flat suffered smoke damage.

Sam Yurdaer, who opened the business in January, said the fire is thought to have started at a plug socket.

He told The Hunts Post: "I was woken at about 3.30am by the police. When I arrived, there were a lot of firefighters everywhere.

"The fire started in a plug socket. The fuse box is meant to have stopped it from happening but it didn't work.

"To see something you've worked hard for go up in flames is heartbreaking.

"I'm not sure when I'll be able to re-open. I can paint in the shop but here in the store room, I don't know how long it will take to fix."

Station commander Wayne Swales, incident commander, said: "This could have been a large fire and could have ended very differently, but thanks to the quick intervention and decisions made by the firefighters, it was stopped at the smaller stages.

"Residents living in the flats above were alerted to the fire by their own smoke alarms because there was heavy smoke logging, and the flats were evacuated.

"This is a timely reminder that smoke alarms can save lives and we would urge residents to ensure they have correctly fitted working smoke alarms in their properties."

Fire investigator Pete Jones said the likely cause of fire was an electrical item.

He said: "When crews arrived there was a large green commercial wheelie bin against the store room, which was on fire and the fire was believed to have spread from this inside.

"On further investigation, it appears the fire started inside, most probably involving a large electrical appliance, and then spread through the store room to a large wooden vent, which opened on to the wheelie bin store."