A lack of staff left a fire engine stuck in its station as a fire ripped through a property 150m away.

At 3.22pm yesterday (Thursday) the emergency services were called to On Properties in Ongar.

As crews from Harlow, Old Harlow, Brentwood and Grays fought to get the blaze under control, Ongar Fire Station staff remained absent.

Despite being a two minute walk down the High Street, no fire fighters were on-call and in the station when the fire broke out.

Daniel Hockley, on-call crew manager, said: "We have ten people that cover the station so we can only cover 60 to 70 per cent of the time.

"We didn't have anyone available until 4.30pm yesterday."

In Essex there are 11 wholetime stations, three day crewed stations and one mixed on-call/wholetime station.

If one more fire fighter was employed, incidents like this could be dealt with by the Ongar crew.

Mr Hockley added: "If we had one more person we would of been able to cover it.

"It is a hard area to recruit for as you have to live within five minutes of the station.

"It was a reasonably bad fire.

"It did some significant damage to the timber frame house, but Old Harlow did a very quick job of getting it out.

"There were no casualties."

On Twitter Essex County Fire and Rescue Service wrote: "So frustrating for our Ongar crew not to be able to attend a fire in their own town.

"If you live or work 5 minutes from the station you could be an on-call firefighter."

Firefighters took about an hour-and-a-half to deal with the fire and then used thermal imaging cameras to check for hotspots in the roof and walls.

An investigation will take place to determine the cause of the fire.

Go to www.join.essex-fire.gov.uk to find out more.