A HOUSE fire which left a dad fighting for his life was started by gas canisters linked to the suspected production of drugs.
Detectives have confirmed the blaze was started by equipment stored upstairs of the rented semi-detached home, in Dunelm Walk, Peterlee.
They say they have found evidence of cannabis being produced in the upper floor of the property.
Both the house and the neighbouring property will have to be demolished as a result of the fire and explosion.
Dean Day is reported to have sustained burns to his face and hands after going into the house to rescue a dog.
However, police have confirmed the two pets fled the property unhurt during the early stages of the fire and before the emergency services arrived.
Mr Day, 28, remains in an induced coma at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, after he was transferred from Sunderland Royal Hospital.
He suffered up to 30 per cent burns to his upper body in the blaze.
His partner Hayley Evans, 26, was taken to Sunderland Royal suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation and is now recovering with relatives.
Their two young sons were at school at the time of the incident, which happened at about 1.20pm on Friday.
Police have also revealed a neighbour asleep next door was pushed across the room in his bed by the force of the canisters catching light.
The man, who works as a gas fitter, was able to isolate the external gas supply to the burning property to reduce the risk of further explosions.
Detective Sergeant Steve Thubron, of Peterlee CID, said: “We have found evidence of cannabis being grown in the upstairs of the house. The investigation between ourselves and the fire service has established that the fire was started because of the gas canisters, and we have found evidence that they were linked to the production of drugs.”
Officers are working on the investigation with the fire service.