Firefighters are tonight tackling a huge blaze in West Boldon, after the village was rocked by several explosions.
The drama unfolded at about 8.20pm, at a motor parts supplier in Newcastle Road, which is well alight.
It is believed several neighbouring homes and the Red Lion pub were evacuated as nine fire crews tackled the blaze.
Police set up a cordon about 100 metres from the garage to keep people away from the scene of the blaze.
Explosions were still being heard nearly an hour after the first.
It is believed the garage, Wrightway Car Parts, is used for the storage of gas cylinders.
Early reports suggest that the fierce blase spread to the property next door.
Former Sunderland Echo journalist Paul Taylor, who lives nearby, said: "Relieved to hear that, according to one of the police officers at the scene, no one was hurt.
"Gas cylinders exploding sounded like sonic booms and shook our house, and the house next door is clearly a write-off."
Staff at the Blush & Blow beauty salon raised the alarm.
Hannah Tullock said: "We rang 999 at 8.20pm. We just saw there was smoke.
"It wasn't anything major, but then the gas canisters started exploding, so I rang them back just to tell them to get a move on, and they came out."
Northumbria Police said: "At 8.25pm today police received a report of a fire at an address on Gateshead Terrace on the A184, West Boldon.
"Police, fire service and ambulance are currently at the scene where a cordon is in place. Nobody is believed to have been injured.
"The A184 is currently closed from the BMW garage to the junction of the Red Lion pub – local diversions are in place.
"Inquiries are ongoing and any residents with concerns are asked to speak to a nearby officer."
Tyne and Wear Fire Brigade tweeted: "We have 9 appliances, 1 ALP, 1 Command Unit and 3 Duty Officers in attendance at an incident in #WestBoldon.
"There are road closures and diversions in place. Please avoid the area if possible."
* Thanks to reader Anthony Brew for the video accompanying this article.