TWO men have been arrested on suspicion of arson after a man was trapped inside a burning flat.
Neighbours were forced to evacuate their homes after the blaze broke out in a flat above the Good Fillers Sandwich shop in Hylton Road, Sunderland.
The incident happened at 11.30am yesterday. Firefighters were forced to smash their way into the flats.
They rescued one man left trapped in his first-floor living room.
No one was injured during the incident, which is being treated as suspicious.
The men arrested, both aged 31, are helping police with their enquiries. Police are now appealing for anyone with information to come forward.
Tanya Watson told the Echo how she returned to her Hylton Road home to find police and firefighters had cordoned off the building as flames swept through the neighbouring property.
The 30-year-old, who lives in the neighbouring property with daughter Tia-Louise, nine, said: “I’d been in Pallion and got back to find police everywhere.
“They’s even had to force their way into my flat because they were worried the fire had spread and I was still inside.
“It’s really worrying to think something like this could happen right next door.”
The fires began in two bedrooms of one of the flats, above a sandwich and florist shop.
The tenant, who was in his 30s, was in the living room at the time and had to be rescued through the window at the back of the building. Two dogs and a cat were also rescued from the building.
Firefighters Michael Kulikowski and Lee Edgar then searched the building to make sure no one else was left trapped inside.
Shocked shop owners from businesses on the ground floor were also forced to leave their properties due to concerns the fire could spread.
Shaun Hannah, crew manager at North Moor, said: “The flat occupier was lifted out from the first floor and down onto a corrugated roof before he was treated by paramedics.
“Both bedrooms were badly damaged by fire and the flat was badly smoke-logged, as was the neighbouring property.”
Ms Watson, who was able to return to her home, added: “We’re just lucky it didn’t spread into here.”
Any witnesses or anyone with information is asked to contact Northumbria Police on 101 ext 69191 or ring the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.