A man has been arrested following a fire at a church which led to local residents’ homes being evacuated.
Flames were spotted at around 8.25pm last night at the Trinity United Reform Church in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside.
Emergency services closed roads while the blaze was brought under control.
Local residents were taken to a refuge centre which was set up at a nearby church on Oxford Street.
The fire was eventually extinguished by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and the emergency services remained at the scene this morning to carry out inquiries.
Northumbria Police said they were treating the incident as suspicious, and a 56-year-old has been arrested in connection with the incident.
Detective Inspector Jane Fairlamb said: “The fire was successfully extinguished overnight, but a number of people have been housed in temporary accommodation while we carry out some further structural investigations.
“We want to thank all those affected for their patience whilst we dealt with the incident, and also thank everyone who supported the emergency services who responded to the incident last night.
“A full investigation into the cause of the fire is under way and we are now appealing for anyone who saw anyone acting suspiciously in the area to get in touch.
“If you know who is responsible then we need to hear from you.”
Anyone with information is asked to call 101.