A “HERO” pub landlord who dashed into a burning house to save a family says he was just doing what came naturally to him.

Malcolm Durrant, 56, was walking home from betting on the Grand National when he saw smoke billowing from an upstairs window of a house near his pub on Saturday, April 8.

Mr Durrant and his partner Rita Acharya, 48, own the Hare and Hounds pub in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton.

The quick-thinking ex-serviceman shouted to a customer outside his pub to call the fire brigade before rushing towards the fire.

He said: “I knocked on the door and when they answered they were panicking. There were three little children and an elderly woman with the family and they were distressed.

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Crews tackled the fire for three hours.

“I knew what could happen if I didn’t act quickly. I didn’t think about it, I just did it because if you spend two minutes thinking about something that’s two minutes lost.

“I told them to go outside and alert the neighbours in the adjacent house. It was just as well because there was a child sleeping in the bedroom and it was the room next to the room where the fire was.

“I held my breath and ran upstairs but I found no one in the spare room and I couldn’t go into the other room as it was a red wall of fire.”

When Mr Durrant came out of the house, glass from the windows was being blown onto the street.

He alerted chefs in the restaurant next door and instructed them to evacuate the building and turn off the gas.

Mr Durrant served in the Black Watch, one of the oldest Scottish infantry regiments, for seven years during the ‘70s.

He and his battalion were called in to tackle fires during the firefighters’ strike in December 1977.

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Ms Acharya, who speaks Hindi, was able to converse with the family who are Pakistani Muslims. She brought them into the pub’s garden and gave them soft drinks and crisps.

She said she wasn’t surprised by what her partner did because he is always looking others’ safety.

She said: “When I went out and saw Malcolm in the middle of the road directing traffic I didn’t know the extent of what he was involved in.

“I have never seen anything like it in my life. Glass was shooting out onto the road.

“Of course I think he’s a hero and I feel very proud of him. He’s always looking out for others.”

Despite his brave actions, Mr Durrant said he doesn’t see himself as a hero and only acted upon his instincts.

He added: “Most military or ex-military have a mentality that is very handy in an emergency or high pressure situation. You just go into autopilot.

“I think the real heroes are the police, firefighters and those in the emergency services and also our veterans.”

A cousin of the family whose home was gutted by the fire who did not wish to be named said: “We have lived here for almost 20 years and everyone was upset.

“The people who own the pub were really good and they let our family in and gave them drinks.”

The first floor and roof of the family’s house and part of the first floor and roof of the adjacent house were gutted in the fire.

The cause of the fire is under investigation but fire crews believe it was accidental.