Terrified neighbours were forced to flee their homes at night as a frightening blaze ripped through a nearby garage, destroying three cars and damaging eight others. 

Six fire crews raced to the scene on Hound Street, Sherborne, to a car port which had caught fire.

Sarah Watts was watching TV when she started to smell what seemed like burning plastic. 

Worried, she checked around her Newlands flat thinking something had caught fire but was unable to find the cause.

The 61-year-old went out onto her balcony and was horrified to see 'billowing smoke' coming down the street. 

"The wind was blowing it towards me and it was the most choking plastic smell that caught in the back of my throat," said Sarah. 

"I looked across towards Waitrose and saw a red glow above the houses and could hear the crackling of fire. I ran up the road to discover that the garages behind the library were alight."

Dorset Echo: Neighbours could see the flames from their properties nearbyPicture: Sarah Watts

Firefighters were already at the scene, according to Sarah, and neighbours were evacuated out into the street.

"There were small explosions of what we presume to be car tyres and the thick, black smoke was cloying," said Sarah. 

"Neighbours gathered together in their night clothes, concerned not just for their properties, but for each other.

Dorset Echo: Picture: Sarah Watts

"Further reinforcements arrived and eventually the situation was under control. It was scary not knowing if a petrol tank might go up and spread the fire to the extent that it would have caught neighbours' houses or cars. Or it would have gotten too much for the fire service to deal with. The heat and smoke were intense, even from our safe distance.

"It makes you realise just how quickly these situations can get out of control. Fair play to our brave firefighters for facing an unknown situation"

Firefighters from Sherborne, Yeovil, Wincanton and Sturminster Newton were sent to tackle the blaze, which happened near to the library just after 10pm on Saturday night. 

Dorset Echo: Neighbours could see the flames from their properties nearbyPicture: Sarah Watts

According to Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, the car port was within a garage block and the fire was contained to that area, with three vehicles destroyed.

Four adjacent vehicles were badly damaged and four outside were partly damaged.

The fire service's stop message - meaning an incident is under control and no further resources are required - came in at 11.40pm.

It said the cause, at this stage, is unknown.