A DOG was rescued from one of three cars which caught fire leading to the evacuation of the county’s biggest shopping centre.

On a busy Easter Saturday, there was chaos in Brighton city centre as Churchill Square was evacuated just after 12.30pm.

A car had burst into flames on level three of the mall’s car park and spread to two cars either side of it.

Antoine Coevoet, 21, from Wilmington, was one of about a dozen people who caught a glimpse of the initial fire and he had no idea it would lead to the city locking down.

The bricklayer at RJ Construction said: “I was walking back to my van because it was getting a valet service and it just started smouldering.

“It was a new car, so it must’ve been something to do with the electrics or something, because that’s where it started.

“The alarm started going off straight away and the staff from Churchill Square were straight over.

“They stopped letting people in and told people that were already through the barriers to drive straight out.

“I managed to get out, and by the time I’d driven to Palace Pier the fire engines were already passing me.”

As the smoke spread through the car park and through doors into the shopping centre, Matt Lloyd, station manager for Hove and Roedean, and his team made the decision to evacuate the building.

He said: “It was on level three of the car park, and although the fire was only in three cars, the smoke was filling the whole floor and was making its way up through the doors and into the shops.

“Smoke was travelling really quickly, so we made the decision to evacuate the centre.

“We put the fire out quickly, but the sheer amount of smoke meant there was a little delay.

“There was a dog in one of the cars which we managed to rescue successfully and it was reunited with its owner, who was very relieved.”

Disgruntled shoppers waited for hours in the rain before eventually being allowed back in just after 3.15pm.

West Street and Russell Place were shut as emergency services carried out their work.

The cause of the fire is thought to have been accidental and there are no reported injuries.