A houseboat sunk and another was gutted in a blaze that broke out this morning.

The fire started on one boat that was moored off Ash Island near Hampton Court and spread to the second, which was so badly burnt it eventually sank.

The barges were used as houseboats and one person was asleep on his boat when the fire broke out. 

Watch manager Guy Pendliham, from Twickenham fire station, said: “A man was asleep on one of the boats and was alerted to the fire by his smoke alarm going off.

“This may well have saved his life and demonstrates just how vital these alarms are.

“We gave out free smoke alarms to other boat owners in the area and crews are going back again today to offer fire safety advice and smoke alarms to anyone else who made need it.”

More than 25 firefighters from Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey were called to the blaze at 5.29am and had the fire under control by 7.36am.

The brigade’s fire boat, which is based at the Lambeth riverboat station, was also there.

Colin McSweeney, who was in charge of the fireboat, said: “When the first fire fighters arrived on the scene they had to walk across a weir through the pitch black to get to the island.

“It was extremely dark and muddy and they had to find the pump and hose at the other end of the island and carry them to the fire.

“There’s no doubt it was a challenging incident but they worked extremely hard to battle the flames.

“Crews had almost brought the fire under control by the time we arrived on the fire boat but we pumped water out of the river and doused the remaining flames with our jets.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation.