A BONFIRE started in the early hours sparked fears after the blaze sent flames 20ft high into the air.
Firefighters from Rainton Bridge fire station were called to an allotment in Shop Row in Philadelphia, Houghton, at 12.30am today after reports of a blaze.
Neighbours of the site were unable to see where they were coming from, but when the crew arrived, they found the owner of the plot and others watching on after setting a large bonfire.
Rules state only clean wood should be set alight in controlled burning, but the large fire included doors, copper wire and plastics, with the timing of the blaze also heightening concerns.
The crew put out the fire, which could seen up to quarter of a mile away.
Watch manager Steve Robson said: “We would advise anyone who wants to get rid of rubbish takes it to a disposal centre, rather than burning it.”