A PREGNANT woman was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation and several family pets died in a Gravesend flat fire last night.

The resident was not home at the time but the pets; two budgerigars, a canary and a cat, were inside the first floor flat in St Alban Close, after fire broke out in the lounge.

The blaze is thought to have been started by an unattended candle.

Two fire engines from Thames-side and one from Strood were called to the flat after the resident returned home at around 9.15pm and opened her door to find the whole property filled with smoke.

She attempted to make her way in to check on her pets and suffered smoke inhalation as a result. The woman immediately left her home and phoned the fire service.

Three other residents also evacuated their flats before crews arrived.

Firefighters spent almost two hours tackling the fire.

Crews were on the scene within minutes of receiving the 999 call and used three hose reels to tackle the blaze and a positive pressure ventilation fan to clear smoke from the flat. Ladders were also used to access the roof and crews made holes in the roof to extinguish the fire from above.

Thames-side Watch Manager, Ian Crouch, said: “Crews did an excellent job of preventing extensive damage to the ground floor flat and stopping the fire spreading to the neighbouring roof space.”

The first floor flat lounge was extensively damaged by fire. The lounge of the ground floor flat was affected as the fire had broken through to that property and the loft space of the neighbouring property suffered some smoke damage.

Ian added: “If you are using candles in your home, do so with care. Keep them away from curtains and anything else that can easily catch fire and always extinguish them when you leave the room.

“Get in touch so we can give essential fire safety advice which is tailored to your home, needs and lifestyle. It’s all free of charge – even the phone call. Call us today on 0800 923 7000, email your contact details to home@kent.fire-uk.org or visit www.saferwinter.info"