Flames shot 20ft into the air as a factory was destroyed by fire last night.

More than 50 firefighters from East and West Sussex tackled the blaze at a pine furniture unit in Wellington Road, Portslade, adjoining Shoreham Harbour.

The heat was so intense that crews could only fight the flames from the outside.

Most of the building collapsed but firefighters managed to stop the flames spreading to adjoining storerooms and workshops.

The loss, including machinery and stock, is expected to run into tens of thousands of pounds.

There were reports of a teenager sleeping in the building as crews from Shoreham, Preston Circus, Hove, Horsham and Crowborough arrived at 11.30pm.

The youngster was later traced to his parent's home and there were no casualties.

Sub Officer Mark O'Brien, from Hove fire station, said: "The flames were through the roof and were leaping 20ft into the air as we arrived.

"It was extremely hot and already in danger of collapse. It was far too dangerous to commit officers to tackle the fire from inside the building."

Council building inspectors said the building was unsafe and much of it was demolished during the firefighting operation. Fire crews were still at the scene this morning.

Police and the fire brigade are investigating.