Firefighter punched and colleagues pelted with stones while Sunderland bingo hall blaze raged

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A firefighter was punched and colleagues were pelted with stones as crews battled to put out a huge blaze at a former Sunderland bingo hall, brigade chiefs have revealed.

More than 50 firefighters were scrambled as flames tore through the building in The Green, Southwick, on Friday evening.

Fire at the former bingo hall site in Southwick on Friday, February 3, 2017.

Fire at the former bingo hall site in Southwick on Friday, February 3, 2017.

The fire started at about 5.30pm, and ripped through the former bingo hall, which was being used by an auction rooms business, causing part of the premises to collapse.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service sent 12 appliances to the blaze.

But at the same time as crews were dealing with the fire, the brigade has now revealed:

•Officers called out to a report of rubbish on fire in Carley Road, also Southwick, came under attack from a number of youths throwing stones

Assistant Chief Officer Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

Assistant Chief Officer Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

•On the same evening, a firefighter was punched in the face by a youth while attending a fire at the TKT Cosyfoam factory in Lambton Lane, Houghton, at around 7.40pm

The injured officer suffered bruising to his cheek.

The following day, in Margaret Thompson Park, in Newcastle Road, officers also had stones thrown at them shortly before 8pm.

Now firefighters and Northumbria Police are carrying out a ‘hot strike’ in Southwick to tackle anti-social behaviour.

This includes joint assemblies for all year groups at three secondary schools in the area - Castleview, Monkwearmouth and Red House.

Teams will also be visiting businesses to give advice, while residents will receive free home safety checks including the fitting of smoke alarms where appropriate.

Assistant chief officer Chris Lowther said: “The fire at the former bingo hall in Southwick showed the fire and rescue service at our best, protecting the public, and we’ve received more positive feedback from the community than I can remember.

“However, some of the behaviour we saw at the weekend, where our firefighters were attacked, is simply not acceptable, and we need the public’s help to tackle these problems.

“We simply will not tolerate such despicable attacks.

“The safety of the public and our firefighters is paramount.

“We have CCTV cameras fitted to all our appliances, and we will pursue prosecutions where we can.

“The work we are carrying out over the next two days highlights how the fire service can work closely with local communities to make a positive difference.”

* A man and a woman arrested on suspicion of arson following the fire at The Green on Friday have been bailed by police.