Charred homes and burned-out cars show the devastating aftermath of wildfires which sparked the worst day for firefighters since World War Two.
Shocking aerial footage revealed the carnage caused by record 40.3C temperatures and blazes on tinderbox grassland in sites across the UK.
But today the country was warned thunder showers could cripple travel networks and cause chaos.
In Wennington, east London, as many as 18 families lost their homes and 90 people were evacuated as a devastating inferno ripped through the village.
Around 100 firefighters tackled a blaze covering nearly 100 acres believed to have been caused by a compost heap.
Two detached houses, two semi-detached houses, two rows of terraced houses, two outbuildings, six single-storey garages, 12 stables and five cars were destroyed by the blaze.
Another detached property was badly damaged, according to London Fire Brigade (LFB), but the village church miraculously survived the fire.
Meanwhile in Dagenham, a grassland fire destroyed and damaged houses and vehicles, while fires devastated homes in Barnsley and Maltby, South Yorkshire.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the LFB received more than 2,600 calls throughout Tuesday – seven times the usual number.
He also revealed that 16 firefighters were injured and two taken to hospital because of heat stress. He said: “It was the busiest day for the fire service in London since the Second World War.”
Heartbroken homeowners yesterday told how they had fled their properties and watched as their possessions were lost forever.
Gravedigger Tim Stock, 66, said it was like a “war zone” resembling the “Blitz” as he fought to dampen the flames in a neighbour’s garden.
He fled his home with wife Maggie, 64, as fire completely gutted the property and destroyed all their possessions.
He said: “I was in at lunchtime and my son said the neighbour’s garden was alight.
“We rushed around with watering cans but it was like a tinderbox and within minutes it pushed us back. I was spraying it with a hose from the top of my lean-to.
“The flames were getting more and the smoke was getting acrid.”
He said within 15 minutes his entire home was “engulfed” in flames but he managed to escape with his family, two dogs and a tortoise. He said: “The firefighters were fearless. It was overwhelming and I was pumped up with adrenalines.
“But today, in the cold light of day, I’ve seen the house over there smouldering, I’ve realised we don’t have anything.”
Speaking about the moment he fled his home, Tim, who has lived in Wennington for 41 years, said: “We got the dogs out but the garden was completely ablaze.
“It was full of smoke and we couldn’t get any of our possessions, it was irretrievable.
“The smoke was choking and it was stinging your eyes. It was frightening, it was like a war zone. My wife keeps breaking down in tears.”
He said: “The flames were leaping 10ft down the road. It was like a scene from the Blitz.”
Meanwhile Alan Giles, 67, told how he and a neighbour fought back flames with a garden hose to save their homes from raging fires.
He had to be forcibly evacuated by emergency crews as he battled to protect his home of 40 years.
He told the Mirror: “I was forcibly evacuated because I was out in the garden with a hosepipe with my neighbour. And from what I’ve seen this morning – what we did actually helped.”
After their efforts the flames never reached his house.
But shocking footage shared with the Mirror shows his burnt out garden.
He said: “All my garage is gone and all my tools. The fire came halfway up my garden. That’s where the hose reached to.
“The lady next door said ‘you are brave’ but I was trying to protect my property. I have lived there for 40 years.
“I burned all the hairs off my legs and frazzled my arms. It was quite frightening how fast it goes.”
Yesterday the temperatures tumbled to a relatively cool 28C – but the UK faced travel chaos as the rail network recovered from the crippling heat.
A level crossing melted in the heat while trains from King’s Cross were cancelled and there were no direct services between Euston and Scotland.
Operators including LNER and Thameslink issued “do not travel” warnings again.
Meanwhile almost every train out of London St Pancras was axed and Eurostar passengers faced delays of more than an hour due to a power failure in Lille.
The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for thunderstorms between 12pm and 10pm.
The warning encompassed London, Oxford, Peterborough, Norwich, Nottingham and parts of Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent.
The weather service warned of heavy showers which could lead to sudden flooding and a chance of bus and train cancellations. It also warned of power cuts.