A fire which forced 40 people to be evacuated from their homes as flames spread through 15 gardens was caused accidentally by a chiminea, an investigation has found.
Firefighters were called to Greenwood Close in Chelmsford at around 10pm on Saturday night after a garden caught alight.
The fire went on to spread to a group of conifer trees and ended up involving 15 homes, damaging exterior walls, windows and guttering, as well as destroying sheds and outbuildings.
Seven people were treated by paramedics and more than 30 firefighters dealt with the various fires, which spread quickly due to arid conditions.
It was extinguished at about 23:10 BST, around an hour after crews were alerted to the blaze.
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Once the situation was brought under control, Essex Fire and Rescue service area manager Neil Fenwick said: "While summer weather usually provides the perfect opportunity to host a barbecue or gather around a chimenea in the evening, we're strongly discouraging people from having any kinds of fires at the moment.
"The ground across Essex is extremely dry, allowing fires to spread easily and quickly."
He added: "Please don't have barbecues or bonfires. Please don't use fireworks or set off sky lanterns.
"Doing so could cause a large scale fire like the one we've seen this evening."
The warning came as temperatures rose to 28C in some parts of Britain on Monday, with a new heatwave forecast later in the week.
Meteorologists have urged people to avoid midday sun and stay in the shade as the dry weather is predicted to last another week to 10 days.
Prolonged dry spells have already led to hosepipe bans in several parts of southern England, with more expected in coming weeks. Southern Water introduced a hosepipe ban for customers in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight, while the measure will follow later this week for South East Water customers in Kent and Sussex.
Welsh Water has also announced a ban for Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire later this month.