Householders are being urged to test their smoke alarms after firefighters wearing breathing apparatus rescued a man from a blaze which spread from a shed to two houses near Melton.
Occupants of the properties, off the A606 at Potters Hill, were alerted to the fire by a passing lorry driver in the early hours of the morning.
But one of them was unaccounted for when a town fire crew arrived at the incident shortly afterwards.
Incident commander Phil Batten said: “Both houses were smoke-logged and two firefighters managed to locate the missing person who was upstairs in one of the properties.
“I believe he had gone back inside to get something - fortunately he was conscious and alert and we were able to assist him outside.
“This is a reminder that people should regularly test their smoke detectors.
“If the lorry driver hadn’t been passing we could have been pulling dead bodies out of those houses.”
Ambulance crews treated two people from one property and one of their neighbours for smoke inhalation.
The blaze started in a shed behind one of the houses and strong winds blew the flames towards the two homes.
When the first Melton crew arrived they found fire and embers from the shed licking the roofs of the two properties and travelling across the carriageway due to strong winds. An urgent request was immediately sent out for a second town fire crew.
Mr Batten said six of his firefighters wore breathing apparatus to tackle the incident and he praised their response. Crews were on the scene for three hours.
“It’s incredible how quickly a standard shed fire turns into a two-house fire incident with persons reported inside,” said Mr Batten.
“The urgency changes up a gear when people and homes are involved. Crews worked tirelessly to bring the fire under control and their performance was outstanding.”
Anthony Snape was asleep in one of the houses which caught fire - his wife Karen and pet dog were away at her mother’s home.
Mr Snape recalled: “A lorry driver banged on my door to wake me up as the fire was just starting to spread.
“My neighbour’s shed was ablaze and the fire was catching the top of his house and the top of mine.
“I grabbed a hose pipe and tried to douse the fire but it didn’t do any good.
“There was a gale blowing the flames towards the houses. It was terrifying.”
Mr Snape’s home suffered severe fire damage to the kitchen and breakfast room.
He added: “The house is in a hell of a mess but I am just thankful nobody was injured.
“The fire crews did an excellent job.”
The cause of the fire, which was at 2.13am on Thursday, is believed to have been accidental, from discarded ash from a fireplace blowing onto the shed and igniting properties.