More than a dozen birds were saved after fire ripped through a pigeon cree this afternoon.
Owner Alan White managed to save his 17 racing pigeons after a neighbour alerted him to the blaze which caused thick black plumes of smoke that could be seen for several miles.
The 59-year-old rushed to the allotment at the rear of Hertford Crescent, in Hetton, and managed to release the birds who circled above the site as firefighters tackled the blaze.
He said: “It was my neighbour who told me about the fire and because I live in the street in front of the allotments I was able to get here straight away.
“I managed to get them out just in time and I’m just thankful none of them were hurt. The outcome could have been a lot worse. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get them back into the section of the cree that wasn’t damaged once the firefighters have finished.
“There doesn’t seem to be any malice, it just seems to be accidental.”
Crews from Rainton Bridge, North Moor and Washington were called to the scene at around 4pm and spent more than an hour on site putting out the flames and making the area safe.
Dave Curtis, watch manager from Rainton Bridge Fire Station, said: “The fire was well alight when we got here but the owner had managed to release the birds so they were airborne.
“Around a third of the large cree has been completely destroyed. We believe the cause was non-malicious.”
Workers from Rainton Bridge Business Park, which is more than a mile away, reported seeing the smoke as the blaze took hold.