Pictures: Actor David Morrissey praises firefighters as blaze destroys Highgate mansion

Actor David Morrissey has praised “brave” firefighters after an enormous blaze ravaged his elderly neighbour’s mansion in Highgate late on Monday night.

Residents awoke to sights of huge flames and a towering plume of smoke after the four-storey home in Wood Lane caught alight some time before 11pm.

Ten fire engines and 72 firefighters battled the blaze for almost six hours – finishing just before 5am.

Four people – said by neighbours to be a grandmother, her daughter and two grand-daughters – were in the semi-detached home when the fire started. All escaped safely with no one taken to hospital.

A rabbit was also rescued from the flames.

Walking Dead star Morrissey took to Twitter to praise the firefighters, tweeting: “Just seen the @LondonFire in action. Brave men and woman that we owe so much to. Thank God for them.”

Eye witnesses spoke to the Ham&High about the chaos of the evening, which left the home uninhabitable and its roof completely destroyed.

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Jennifer Sorrell, who lives two doors down from the home, said: “We came outside when we heard the fire alarm. There was just smoke at first but then the fire grew and grew. The sight and noise were quite phenomenal. Embers were flying, timbers were cracking and slates were falling from the roof.”

Husband Phil added: “The flames were huge. It seemed to start on the middle floor but within 10 minutes it had engulfed the roof. It’s lucky nobody was hurt.”

At one point, the fire began to spread to a neighbour’s home with firefighters working quickly to evacuate families.

Crystal Johnson, of Southwood Lane, was walking from the bus station around midnight when she saw the huge pillar of smoke.

She said: “From the amount os smoke and how high it was, I thought at least two or three houses were involved. Firemen and police blocked off the area, but I just hoped everyone was okay.”

Desmond Lewis, of neighbouring Queenswood Road, was woken up multiple times by the noise.

He said: “I didn’t know what was going on, or even that it was that bad, until I saw for myself when the fire engines were still there. It’s so tragic about the house, but I’m glad everyone got out.”

Peter Wolfenden, station manager for Finchley Fire Station, said the fire started on the first floor and spread to the roof, adding: “There is extensive fire and water damage in the house, and the roof is completely gone.”

The cause of the fire is not known, but arson is not suspected at this time.