Thurrock Council volunteers swung into action on Monday night following the major fire in Hume Avenue, Tilbury.
The police and fire service wanted to create an “exclusion zone” around the blazing Hume Avenue car repair yard at approximately 8pm and volunteers started arriving about an hour later.
A respite centre was set up at The Gateway Academy and many families made their own way there. A temporary evacuation centre was also set up in Dock Road, but evacuees there were later also later transferred to the academy gym site. In all, around 50 people were catered for.
Around a dozen council volunteers joined staff from the school, providing beverages. They also started to arrange bedding and food supplies before the teams were informed the families could return home in the early hours of Tuesday.
Local councillor and portfolio holder for civil protection, Cllr Lynn Worrall, said: “I would like to pass on my thanks to the council’s volunteers and the emergency teams for their hard work to help local people in need. It is one of the things we do that few people think about — until they have an emergency.”
She added: “Although I live a little way from the fire I can say from personal experience that the emergency services were absolutely fantastic. They were knocking on doors, giving advice and keeping people calm. They did a wonderful job.”