A devastating fire has torn through a man’s house despite his desperate attempts to tackle the blaze.

Fire broke out at the detached house in Midway, near Sutton Common Recreation Ground, at about 1pm.

It is unknown how the fire started but it is understood to have started in either the roof or the first floor.

Onlookers, including the owner, watched in the Rec as fire fighters tackled the flames, which had all but destroyed the upper floors after an hour.

The fire gave off heavy smoke and the smell of burning plastic to surrounding areas of Epsom Road in Morden and Stonecot Hill in North Cheam.

Two workers at Plumb Crazy, in Stonecot Hill, saw the flames and immediately ran in the direction of the smoke.

There they saw the owner, a man named William of Filipino origin and his daughter, both in a clearly distressed state.

Barry McIntosh, who lives nearby, said: “The owner said he was in his house and then started hearing this banging noise coming from the loft. He had some tools in the hallway so he may have been doing some redecorating.

“We could see this thick black smoke, it was really bad, it looked like somebody had started the fire in the garden by burning tyres.

“Then a policewoman turned up and asked him if he had been growing any cannabis in the roof, but there was no evidence of that at all - you need that like a hole in the head when your house is burning down.”

William and his daughter had apparently tried to tackle the fire themselves but were stopped by an off-duty fire fighter who happened to live nearby, who told them to wait for fire fighters to arrive.

Ted Lockhurst, 67, said: “After we got there it took another 10 minutes for firemen to arrive. The owner kept saying he needed to get into his garden because he had some important documents.

“But the police said that could make the situation worse.

“He was in the road with an axe and said he wanted to force his way in but they wouldn’t let him and told him to move his car instead. He was clearly panicking.

“Then his daughter got a jet hose from somewhere and they tried to hook it up to the neighbour’s tap but it wouldn’t reach.

“It’s a shame because maybe they could have put out the fire. It wasn’t that bad when we got there. By the time the fire engines turned up it had got a lot worse.”