Neighbours have told of their shock after their homes almost went up in flames following a suspected arson attack in Jarrow.
The blaze, in York Avenue, Jarrow, is thought to have started when cardboard and bins were set alight between two houses in York Avenue, Jarrow, shortly before 9pm last night.
Three wheely bins were destroyed, as was a fance and guttering.
Kathleen Derisi, 75, who lives at one of the properties affected, was inside with husband Salvatore, 81, who is suffering with heart failure, when the fire broke out.
Mrs Derisi said: “It was horrible.
“When I saw the flames, it was shocking.
“My husband is on oxygen and I had to get him away from the fire.
“It could have been much worse.”
Firefighters have issues a warning about the risks of stacking cardboard and rubbish near homes after the blaze.
Watch manager Trevor Smith, from Jarrow Fire Station, said: "They had wheely bins and cardboard in the sidepath between the houses.
"We believe youths who have been seen in the area have set fire to the cardboard, that has spread to the bins and then to a picket fence between the two houses.
"It has reached both houses, causing cracks in the kitchen windows and some of the guttering has been melted by the heat from the flames.
"The householders of both houses were quite shocked. The police have been informed .
"It could have been a lot worse. Thankfully one of the neighbours could smell the burning, could smell the smoke, and raised the alarm.
"The flames were quite high between the two houses but she noticed it within five minutes of it being set and we were there within minutes of her calling.
"We want to make people aware of the risks, especially at this time of year when we are likely to have more cardboard and the like to dispose of."
Rosemary O’Neil, 55, lives in the other affected property with husband Sean, 56.
She said: “A man was walking past with his dog and noticed it.
“If it wasn’t for him, it would have been a lot worse.
“The fire brigade were here within minutes, and in the meantime some of the neighbours had got quite a bit of the fire out.
“Everything happened so fast. The fire started off three to four feet high and within seconds it had hit the roof.
“The main thing was to get everyone out of the way.
“We’re brought up knowing how dangerous fire is, but until you experience it and see how quick it can grow, you don’t really understand. It’s frightening.”