A FORMER Hollyoaks actor whose brother died in a house fire has spoken of his heartbreak at the loss of his “hero” and “idol”.

Lakhbir Uppal, 45, died after a blaze broke out in the bedroom of his ground floor flat in Wellgarth Mews, Sedgefield, County Durham, during the early hours of Tuesday.

An investigation into the cause is ongoing, but police are not treating it as suspicious at this stage.

Originally from Middlesbrough, Mr Uppal, known as Lacky, was the older brother of Stephen Uppal, who is best known for playing Ravi Roy in the Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks.

The actor, who flew back from the US yesterday, was among those to pay tribute to Mr Uppal on Facebook.

He said: “My big bro was crazy and as stubborn as a mule, but he had such a soft heart and the vulnerability of a child that he hid behind his tough exterior, his mask.

“There was no talking to him. He lived his life the way he wanted to and made a lot of people howl with his crazy antics.

“He was my big brother, my hero and idol. When I was growing up, I wanted to be exactly like him.”

Others to post messages of condolence on the site include Emma Johnston, who wrote: “Such heartbreaking news. You will be so very missed by your family and everyone who knew you. You touched so many hearts.”

Bev Harding wrote: “RIP Lacky, a true gent and genuine friend. You will be sadly missed by so many people. It is always the good ones taken away too soon.”

The emergency services were called shortly after 1.45am when a resident in the block of flats reported smelling gas.

They arrived to find a fire had broken out and reports of a person being trapped inside. Within minutes, firefighters forced their way in, extinguished the blaze and carried Mr Uppal, who died at the scene, from the building.

Mr Uppal’s family, who run Uppal’s Off-licence in Ormesby Bank, Middlesbrough, said the tributes on Facebook summed up the kind of man he was.