THREE friends have been hailed as heroes after they prevented a row of bungalows from going up in smoke.
Police believe arsonists sparked a blaze which gutted a home on Cherry Crescent, Winsford, on Sunday night.
Furniture placed outside ready to be taken to the tip was set alight and flames quickly spread to the roof, eventually engulfing the building.
Firefighters say the blaze could have spread to neighbouring properties but for three friends who were watching TV in the house next door.
The pals called the fire brigade, then alerted neighbours - even breaking into the burning bungalow to make sure noone was asleep inside.
Christopher Akenhead, 25, Stephen Dickenson, 21, and Kevin Partridge, 22, were praised by neighbours.
Christopher said: 'We were watching TV when we could smell burning. I went outside and I could see smoke coming off the roof of the bungalow.
'I rang emergency services and we went round the street knocking on doors to get people out.'
A mystery man also helped the friends search the house, but it is thought the residents were on holiday in Spain when the fire began at around 9.30pm. Christopher said: 'He smashed a window to break in, cutting his hand. We went in with him, but there was no-one in the house.'
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: 'The boys were heroes. I was watching TV when they came shouting and banging on my door.
'The bungalows are all connected and they could have all gone up in flames.'
A spokesman for Cheshire Fire Brigade said: 'Two fire engines fought the flames for about an hour-and-a-half.'
Residents say a dirt track to the rear of the property is often used by gangs of youths.
The neighbour said: 'We get gangs coming here from other estates. I'm sure the arsonists used the dirt track to get away.' Anyone with information should call police on 01606 48000 or the CrimeStoppers hotline on 0800 555111.