Up to 80 horses were evacuated from Liverpool's Echo Arena and an evening session of the Liverpool International Horse Show was cancelled as firefighters tackled a fire that broke out in a car park next to the venue.
Flames engulfed a number of vehicles next to the arena on Liverpool's waterfront, with a total of 12 fire engines called to the building at King's Dock.
A spokeswoman for Mersey Fire and Rescue Service later confirmed there were no reports of any casualties and crews were still battling to get the blaze under control with 12 engines at the scene along with two aerial appliances.
She said the blaze started on level three of the seven-storey car park, with multiple cars ablaze and it had affected that level and one above.
There was no information on the numbers of vehicles damaged or destroyed yet and fire crews were expected to remain on scene for a number of hours. The cause of the blaze is not yet known.
Sue Wright, the wife of former England footballer Mark, told MailOnline that she was in a car with her husband and six children – their 12-year-old daughter, her two friends and the couple's three foster children – when a nearby vehicle exploded into flames.
She said the blaze started as a small engine fire in a Land Rover on the car park's third floor but then quickly spread.
"It was an old car that exploded as we were leaving the building. We were in our minibus and one of the kids shouted, 'there's a fire!'"
She added that a number of cars exploded after the first one and she fears that her family's vehicle may be one of them.
"The cars were just popping every couple of seconds," she said.
"We've lost everything because our car was right next to the car that exploded. My handbag was in it, our cards, cash, everything. We just grabbed the keys and ran."
Mrs Wright said that her husband ran the children to safety down a fire escape, while she called emergency services and stayed to help evacuate the horses.
"The children were very upset. They were crying because they saw me go back inside the building," she said.
She said around 80 horses that were stabled in the car park's ground floor were evacuated.
"Getting the horses out was the biggest issue," she said.
"I kept asking the officer in charge about releasing the horses, and eventually I went in and told the stable hands to get the horses out."
She added: "All the horses had stable hands who were just waiting for instructions.
"The horses were getting stressed, so I just told the stable hands to get the horses bridled and walk them out."
Crews were first called at 4.42pm and were on scene eight minutes later.
Six fire engines were initially in attendance and crews, wearing breathing apparatus, are tackling the fire, Mersey Fire and Rescue Service said.
The area was evacuated along with some apartments nearby due to smoke billowing from the blaze.
Merseyside Police advised members of the public to stay away from the area and traffic restrictions are currently in place.
A spokeswoman for the Echo Arena said: "We regret to announce that the Liverpool International Horse Show has been cancelled tonight due to a serious fire in the multi-storey car park on site.
"All people and horses are safe and secure.
"We are working alongside the emergency services to ensure the fire is brought under control and to make the site safe as quickly as possible."
In a tweet, mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: "Arena Car Park fire have been told everyone safe and no animals hurt seems a land rover went on fire on the 3rd level, horses on 1st the horses have been evacuated to Arena. Will give more news about tonight ASAP."
The four-day event was due to finish with yesterday's show.
Around 4000 people were expected for Sunday evening's show, but at least two or three levels of the car park appeared well alight, with periodic mini-explosions and flames shooting up the outside of the building.
Anderson later tweeted: "Anyone whose car was in the arena car park should go to the Galeria in the Exhibition centre. Council and arena staff will help with getting home or emergency accommodation.
"Big praise for our fire service who are working really hard at the car park."