A fire – thought to have been caused by a barbecue – destroyed multiple gardens and damaged more than a dozen homes in one street.
Fire crews were called to Chelmsford, Essex, around 10pm last night after a garden caught alight and quickly spread to a group of conifer trees.
Firefighters from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service arrived in Greenwood Close to find a well-developed blaze involving around 15 homes and several sheds and outbuildings.
Exterior walls, windows and guttering were damaged.
An estimated 40 people were evacuated with the inferno eventually extinguished by 11.08pm on Saturday.
Harrowing photos show the charred remains of various gardens as well as blackened trees which have been stripped of their leaves.
Others show bright orange flames roaring above homes.
Seven fire crews from Chelmsford, Rayleigh Weir, Maldon, Brentwood, Wickford and Witham were dispatched.
Essex Police were also at the scene and East of England Ambulance Service provided first aid to seven people.
A fire investigation is being carried out to determine the cause of the fire.
Area Manager Neil Fenwick said: “While summer weather usually provides the perfect opportunity to host a barbecue or gather around a chiminea in the evening, we’re strongly discouraging people from having any kinds of fires at the moment.
“The ground across Essex is extremely dry allowing fires to spread easily and quickly. This is true for gardens as well as fields and heathland.
“Please help us to help you. Please don’t have barbecues or bonfires.
“Please don’t use fireworks or set off sky lanterns.
“Doing so could cause a large scale fire like the one we’ve seen this evening.”
It comes after Britain saw major wildfires last month which engulfed a number of homes across the country amid record-breaking temperatures.
The UK saw the mercury rise above 40C for the first time, allowing flames to spread in parts of London, as well as at least 10 further locations.
Shocking aerial footage showed grass and houses up in flames in Wennington, near Rainham, Greater London, with roaring orange flames tearing through buildings.
A firefighter at the scene, asked what conditions were like, replied: “absolute hell”, while those affected by the blaze said it had been spreading “fast”.
Meanwhile, a hosepipe ban came into force on Friday for those living in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight ahead of another predicted heatwave in the coming days.