Residents of Southbourne, west Sussex, looked on in dismay as an out of control fire destroyed gardens.

The Daily Echo reported that sheds, acoustic fencing, a summerhouse and a tree were damaged as an elderly man's fire spiralled to unmanageable levels. Stanley Lee, an 88-year-old retired electrical engineer, was burning pine needles in an incinerator at the back of his home.

After checking it twice, his wife shouted to him that there was a large fire in the garden. He has since apologised for the incident which saw fire crews tackling 25-foot high flames.

Next-door-neighbour Cathy Elson told the Daily Echo: "It was so immediate and quite frightening. The fire brigade were here a good two hours. It must have been a spark. That's all it takes. Everything is so tinder-dry."

With some parts of the country experiencing "drought" conditions organisations are advising against lighting fires as they could spread.

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