A man had a lucky escape after he was woken by smoke to find his kitchen going up in flames.

The fire started after he left a chip pan on by accident and went to bed at 9pm yesterday.

But within the hour he awoke to “copious amounts of smoke”.

The battery in his smoke alarm was flat.

The 54-year-old tried to tackle the fire himself but it was out of control so he left, shutting the door behind him.

Two crews – one from Roedean and another from Preston Circus – arrived at the purpose-built block in Bristol Gardens, Kemp Town, shortly after 10pm.

Residents of Rugby Court, comprising about 20 flats, left their flats after the fire alarm sounded.

Initially they hung around in the corridors but crews evacuated the building before turning to the fire.

Four firefighters laden with breathing gear made their way into the ground-floor flat and were confronted with thick smoke.

Watch manager Spencer Bartley of Roedean Fire Station tackled the fire.

He said there was a severe fire in the kitchen, which damaged the whole flat.

It was only once the smoke had cleared that the aftermath became apparent.

The kitchen was stripped by fire while the rest of the flat was damaged by smoke and heat.

He said: “It is very important to maintain a working smoke alarm and test it regularly.

“Make sure the battery is changed at least once a year.

“The gentleman was very lucky in this situation because he woke up naturally and managed to leave safely.

“He was very fortunate.”

Crews remained at the scene until about 11pm.