A police dog handler who rescued two people from a burning building is to be commended for his bravery.

PC Eric Wells was on a routine patrol when he spotted smoke and flames billowing from a house in Millers Road, Brighton.

After raising the alarm he saw a man managing to escape through the front door which accidentally latched behind him.

Mr Wells forced the door open but was beaten back by smoke and flames.

When he went back outside he saw two women banging on a front floor window shouting for help.

The quick-thinking officer spotted a stepladder nearby and with the help of a passer-by used it to smash the window and lean it on the ledge.

He then climbed the ladder and helped the two women get out.

Mr Wells said: "The women told me there was another person still trapped inside so I went back in but the fire had really spread by this time and there was debris falling over me.

"I knew I had to get out but first I shouted a couple of times and eventually heard someone respond. I told them to go to the back window and wait there."

When Mr Wells got out firefighters arrived so he told them what had happened and they went to get the trapped woman out.

Firefighters used their own ladder to rescue one woman and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service 999 control room staff spoke to her while she was waiting for crews to arrive to the end-of-terrace building.

Mr Wells, 37, who has been an officer for 18 years, said: "It all happened so quickly I just did not have time to think.

"It had been a fairly quiet night before all this happened. I just tried to use my logic and common sense.

"I'm a little embarrassed by all of it as anyone would have done the same thing. I am just glad nobody was seriously hurt and I was able to help."

Mr Wells suffered minor burns and cuts as a result of the blaze and was treated at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton before being discharge.

Three women and a man were taken to hospital for similar treatment and one of the women has since been transferred to intensive care with serious burns.

PC Wells' dogs George the German Shepherd and Neo the springer spaniel, were left in the van while he dealt with the blaze.

Up to 20 firefighters from Preston Circus, Hove and Roedean were needed to deal with the blaze, which started in a rear first floor bedroom before spreading to the rest of the floor and roof, causing severe damage.

The blaze started at around 2.50am yesterday (fri) and crews were at the scene until 6.30am Investigations are continuing into the cause of the blaze but it is believed a lit candle may have been responsible.

Preston Circus watch manager Steve Tomlin said: "The property did not have a smoke detector so these people were incredibly lucky.

"It was extremely fortunate the officer had been passing and was able to alert them quickly.

"The fire spread very quickly and has caused a lot of damage."

Sussex Police Inspector Jason Hazzard said: "There is no doubt in my mind that the quick thinking and bravery of PC Wells led to the lives of these two women being saved.

"Having spoken to Eric this morning he is adamant that he was just doing his job but it is certainly not every day that police officers rescue people from burning buildings.

"Eric did not think twice about putting himself in serious danger to preserve life, he is a credit to the organisation and will be commended for the action he took."