ABOUT 70 cars were burnt out by fire at a recovery and car scrap yard at Redmarshall, near Stockton in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The fire started at the Hartburn Garage compound on Whitton Road at about 3am and at at its height fire crews from Stockton, Billingham and Thornaby and three jets were used to douse the flames. The firefighters left the scene at about 5am.

There are two houses on the site, which is also a farm area, but a spokesman for Stockton Fire Station said there was no risk to life at any point.

The Northern Echo understands that police are investigating a possible arson and CCTV footage has been handed over.

A Hartburn Garage worker, who did not wish to be named, was called to the scene.

He said: "It was a long night. It was a good, high blaze and the firemen were coming and going for hours. I moved cars out of the way but, fortunately, all the cars that were damaged were for scrap."

A spokeswoman for Cleveland Fire Brigade said that firefighters were initially called to what was believed to be a rubbish fire.

However, when the scale for the blaze was established, the control room in Hartlepool were informed and several fire crews were called.