INVESTIGATIONS continued today into a horrific house blaze which killed a Wearside man.
It is understood smoke alarms were not fitted at the cottage in Washington Street, Millfield, where the fire broke out in the early hours of yesterday.
Crews are now carrying out door-to-door inquiries and “Hot Strike” safety checks at neighbouring homes.
The body of the 46-year-old Michael Wilkinson was later recovered from a bedroom of the mid-terrace property.
His identity is expected to be released today, when an inquest is opened and adjourned into his death.
Two teenage boys and a woman escaped before firefighters arrived.
They were taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital suffering smoke inhalation, but later discharged.
Group Manager John Allison, of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said the blaze was well developed when the six-strong crew arrived at the scene and they were faced with intense heat and heavy smoke logging.
The cause of the fire is currently being investigated, but it is not believed to be malicious.
“Our thoughts and wishes are with the family and friends at this very sad time,” said Mr Allison.
“Fires can have such devastating consequences as we have seen.
“I would also like to take the opportunity to encourage anyone who has not got smoke alarms to fit them in their property and for people to check they work on a weekly basis.
“They really can be the difference between life and death, providing early warning of a fire and vital minutes to escape.”
Fire safety experts are currently visiting houses in the neighbourhood to ensure they have installed smoke alarms.
Mr Allison said: “We’ve been carrying out investigations at the property today and speaking to witnesses to help establish the exact cause of the fire.
“The investigation is continuing, but we do not believe the fire was started maliciously.
“Our firefighters have been carrying out Hot Strikes in the area this afternoon, offering free home safety checks to people living close by.
“This involves providing fire safety information and advice, discussing how to make escape plans in the event of a fire, fitting free smoke alarms if needed and checking existing alarms are working and in the correct locations.
Today, residents spoke of their shock at the tragedy.
“The fire woke us up because it set my car alarm off,” said nurse Gemma Scott, 31. “My two-year-old son’s bedroom is at the front of the house opposite the house where the fire was so it woke him up.
“It’s very sad.”
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police said: “The fire was extinguished and a 46-year-old man was found deceased in the bedroom.
“The scene was examined and at this time the fire is believed to have been accidental, with no indication of any third-party involvement.”