Gas cylinders have exploded as firefighters tackle a huge blaze which saw businesses on an industrial estate evacuated.
A number of businesses on South West Industrial Estate in Peterlee were evacuated by police as fire crews tackled the blaze.
Loud explosions could be heard by residents nearby as the fire and rescue service confirm a number of gas cylinders are involved in the blaze.
County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service has urged residents to avoid the area as crews deal with the large fire at the industrial estate.
Six fire engines are at the scene of the blaze which sent plumes of thick black smoke into the sky.
A spokesman for the fire service said: "We are currently in attendance at a large fire on South West Industrial Estate, Peterlee, we have a number of appliances in attendance please avoid the area if possible.
"This initially was reported as a large container, a stack of wood and gas bottles on fire with explosions. This is a fire involving Acetylene cylinders and numerous LPG cylinders.
"Further to the incident at Peterlee two jets and one ground monitor in use. There are six fire appliances, the drone and a number of senior officers in attendance.
"The incident has been sectorised and some local businesses have been evacuated."
The blaze is believed to have started at around 6pm this evening.
A spokesman for Durham Constabulary said: "We are currently working with fire dealing with a large fire on South West Industrial Estate, Peterlee evacuation is currently on going the incident will have a large impact on the road network in the area and advice is given to avoid the area if possible."
* Video thanks to reader Brandon Saiger