MORE than 30 firefighters tackled a huge blaze that broke out at a car workshop in Southampton.

Part of the busy Portswood Road was cordoned off after the fire broke out shortly after 11am, with businesses and homes evacuated as fire crews cooled and removed potentially dangerous gas cylinders from the scene.

Eyewitnesses described seeing flames leap up to 30ft into the air as thick black smoke belched from the large fire, behind the parade of shops between Broadlands Road and Mayfield Road, leaving an acrid burning smell.

Appliances from Winchester, St Mary's, Eastleigh, Hightown, Redbridge, the special equipment unit from Southampton and the incident command unit from the service's Eastleigh headquarters were all sent to help tackle the blaze.

Police shut the main road and ordered an exclusion zone as the fire crews used jets, breathing apparatus and thermal imaging cameras as they quickly contained the fire and stopped it spreading.

But the single-storey garage was completely destroyed by the time the fire was declared extinguished at 1.38pm, once the cylinders had been cooled and removed from the scene.

The manager of the nearby One Stop store said she smelled burning in the shop, but thought it was just a heater so ignored it.

Soon after, she heard loud popping noises. When she went outside to investigate she saw the fire behind the properties.

"It was quite big and fierce, the flames were well above the shops, but the firefighters were here really quickly and go it under control," she said.

Ambulance crews were on standby throughout the incident, but it is not thought anyone was hurt.

The Environment Agency was called to the scene by fire chiefs to help with water run-off issues.