Seven people were rescued by firefighters today after a blaze broke out in the stairwell of their four-storey block of seafront flats.
A fire alarm alerted residents to the blaze in South Terrace, Littlehampton, West Sussex, just after 5am, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said.
Several callers reported being trapped in their flats and unable to reach safety because of the heat and thick black smoke in the communal stairwell.
When the first crew arrived, they found an elderly woman on a first floor balcony and a man standing on the roof, a fire service spokesman said.
When firefighters went to the rear of the property - which had been converted with a single staircase - they found two men, two women and a dog perched on a first floor roof.
Four people and the dog were rescued via ladder at the rear of the building, and the man trapped on the roof was helped down aided by an aerial ladder platform.
Two other residents were led to safety once the smoke had cleared.
Three were treated for smoke inhalation and one was taken to hospital.
The spokesman said: "The fire was located in the basement level of the staircase and extinguished but it had caused extensive smoke damage throughout the staircase.
"The cause is now being investigated although it is believed to have started in the basement area of the staircase close to a rear door, and accidental ignition by smoking materials has not been ruled out." PA