DOZENS of firefighters from across the county were called to a garage workshop in one of the largest turnouts seen in recent years.
More than 40 firefighters and 10 appliances were sent to the scene of a four-storey converted office block in Menzies Road on the Ponswood Estate, St Leonards.
Crews were sent from Hastings Bohemia Road, The Ridge, Bexhill, Battle, Rye, Lewes, Herstmonceux and Pevensey.
A bowser tank and fire engine were also sent from as far as Uckfield, 30 miles away.
Paramedics, police, police community support officers and a fire rehoming crew were also dispatched.
Chief fire officer Des Prichard also attended the scene.
The last time there was a larger emergency attendance was when Hastings Pier burned down two years ago.
The smoke started around 10.45am in the second floor of the building which is at the far end of the estate.
Hastings borough commander Nigel Cusack said the large response was due to the huge amount of smoke billowing from the building and the people in and around it.
It is believed the smoke started when a space heater filled with oil overheated and caught fire in an industrial workshop.
Two young men working on site tried to stop the smoke but were beaten back by its intensity.
Another man in his 50s who worked as a mechanic in a garage workshop below suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to hospital.
Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the building while colleagues evacuated the Fowle & Co building next door.
It took up to an hour to bring the smoke under control and vent the building. Firefighters stood down at 1.20pm.
Eye-witness Tim Blythe, was working in the Hastings Hire Centre on the first floor, when the smoke broke out.
He said: “Someone next door banged on my window and alerted me. I looked out of the window and could see thick, black smoke pouring from the windows on the floor above.
“I got out as quick as I could. There was a guy who works downstairs who went to hospital after breathing in smoke.
“There was not a lot I could do but I was surprised to see so many firefighters .”
Commander Cusack said: “There was a lot of smoke billowing from the building and we had persons reported inside which is why we brought a lot of pumps in. There was also the potential to spread to neighbouring buildings. We had reports of oxyacetylene tanks involved which could have caused major problems.”
The fire has been confirmed by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service as an accident.