A QUICK-THINKING taxi driver turned hero when he used his car horn to alert sleeping residents to a fire on their St Austell street.
Neil Heard also transported a mother and toddler to safety following the blaze on Holmbush Road, which left several families homeless over the festive period.
The White River Cars driver saw flames raging from the terrace property when he drove past in his cab at around 3am on Sunday.
The 41-year-old pulled over, dialled 999, and frantically sounded his horn to wake up sleeping residents.
Neighbour Scott Sturge said that, just minutes after he escaped his home alongside wife Marie and four-year-old son Angus, there was an explosion and the windows blew out from the blazing house.
The 39-year-old self-employed tiler dubbed Mr Heard an "all-round good egg" and said the sounding of the horn helped to wake them up.
The couple wrapped Angus in a blanket and made a dash for the door before Mr Heard drove him and Marie to her mother's home.
Good Samaritans in a yellow van were also banging on everybody's doors to alert people to the blaze.
More than 55 firefighters battled the blaze at the property – which had also caught fire just over a year earlier on December 22, 2011. It was empty at the time and no one was injured.
Mr Heard, 41, of Stenalees, described the fire as "horrific" and said he wanted to make sure everyone got out of their homes.
"I was on my way back up to the station at the time," he said. "There were flames everywhere. I didn't see the explosion but apparently it took a fireman off his feet.
"I think the families have got to be commended, and the fire service. It must be horrible to be homeless over Christmas.
"White River Cars were great, too, as they gave my jobs to other drivers so I could help."
The fire started in the front room of the property and is thought to have been caused by overloading of electrical sockets.
Eight pumping appliances, the aerial ladder platform from Truro, the incident command unit from Launceston and the operational support vehicle from Falmouth were in attendance.
The police, ambulance, Transco and Western Power were also on the scene.
A Cornwall Council spokesperson said: "Electrical equipment can often be an unnoticed fire hazard in the home.
"Too many electrical appliances plugged into one socket or adaptor can lead to overheating – find out more about electrical fire safety at www.cornwall.gov.uk/fire."