A fire hit garage which was gutted by flames has been handed back to its owners.

At the height of the blaze, thirty-three firefighters tackled the blaze at Madeira Garage in May Road, off Elm Grove, shortly after 4pm yesterday.

The auto-repair garage’s owner burnt his arm trying to contain the fire, understood to have started while mechanics were working inside.

The three-storey building next door, which is divided into three flats, suffered smoke damage and a dog had to be rescued by firefighters from the top floor.

John Hardy, 40, lives in one of the affected flats and rushed out of the house after smelling smoke.

He said: “I looked out of the back window and there was lots of smoke and I saw the people mowing the graveyard were moving backwards and backwards, so I just grabbed what I could and got out of there.”

Tom Harrison, 21, saw the incident from his house opposite the garage.

He said: “I heard some shouting outside and workers from the garage were having a massive panic and were calling 999.

“All of a sudden the roof blew up and then two fire engines arrived. All of this black smoke was coming out of the back.”

Hiro Kanatani, 43, who lives in one of the three flats next-door, said he rushed home after he was called about the fire.

He said: “The neighbour saw the fire engines here from the bus and he called my wife. I am shocked and a bit worried.”

Firefighters ripped tiles from the roof of the flats in case the fire from the garage had spread through the homes.

Tony McCord, Hove station commander at the scene, said the fire was under control by about 5pm and had started towards the middle of the garage.

He added: “The occupiers said basically they were working and the fire started in the premises.

“Firefighters were faced with quite a severe fire in the garage premises.

“There is a lot of damage to the garage. The property next door has got some smoke damage but nothing major.”

Firefighters have said the cause of the fire was accidental.

After an inspection by firefighters of the site took place at 10.30pm, it was handed back to the owners.