Investigation launched after Hebburn flat is severely damaged in suspect arson attack
Fears were raised people could be inside a flat which caught fire after a suspected arson attack.
Firefighters from Hebburn, South Shields and Wallsend were sent to the property in Victoria Road West in Hebburn after the blaze was spotted earlier this evening.
When the crews arrived, they were told people could be inside the mid-terrace address, but found it empty and unoccupied as they entered to put out the fire.
The uPVC ground floor door to the flat was destroyed by the heat, as was the passageway, while the kitchen, bathroom and living room areas have been badly affected by smoke.
The three bedrooms of the Tyneside-style flat were unaffected as the doors had been closed.
Four officers wearing breathing apparatus used two hose reels to put out the fire, with a fan used to clear fumes from the flat.
The cause of the blaze is suspected of being malicious ignition, with an investigation between the fire service and police under way.
A spokeswoman for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: "At the time of call it was thought there were persons reported inside the property, however it was found unoccupied."
In the wake of the incident, firefighters visited homes in the area to ensure they have working smoke alarms.
The incident happened shortly before 6.40pm.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Northumbria Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Residents who would like to request a home safety check by firefighters can find out more here.