This article was reproduced with the kind permission
of the British Broadcasting Corporation
22 November 2007, 12:59 GMT
Three people had to be led down ladders by fire crews after the blaze broke out at Cheryl Court, Uplands Road, Clacton, early in the morning.
Paramedics treated three occupants suffering from smoke inhalation and one resident was taken to hospital.
A 31-year-old man from Clacton has been arrested on suspicion of committing arson with intent to endanger life.
Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus used one hose reel and a thermal imaging camera to tackle the blaze.
'Worst possible time'
Assistant Divisional Officer Danny Fearn, from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Crews brought the incident under control within five minutes and then spread themselves around 11 flats to bring everyone out.
"This was the worst possible time for fire to break out as everyone was sleeping and a number of people had to be woken before being led out, including a couple of frail, elderly residents.
"Within minutes they had the situation safely under control and did an excellent job in reassuring people, calming them down and bringing them out."
The fire started in the central reception area of the block.
"It appears there was no central smoke alarm in the property which would have provided residents with more early warning", Mr Fearn added.
Fire investigation and police scenes of crime officers are now working to establish the cause.
Anyone with information about the fire, which broke out at 0325 GMT, is asked to contact Essex Police.