POLICE are hunting arsonists who set fire to a house as the owner slept inside.
The 43-year-old man was believed to have been in the bedroom of his Washington home when thugs started the blaze at his front door.
Firefighters and police were called to the scene at Raglan, in Oxclose.
The man was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation but later discharged himself.
His house was left severely damaged by smoke and fire and it is understood he is living with a friend until it can be repaired.
Northumbria Police confirmed today that they are treating the incident as an arson attack.
Neighbours living in the cul-de-sac today spoke of their shock after being woken by the sound of fire engines in the early hours.
One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “He was lucky it didn’t spread through otherwise it could have been a lot worse for him and his neighbours.
“We slept right through it. The first we knew was when we woke up to the sound of sirens and looked outside.”
One man, who does not want to be named, added: “I don’t think anybody saw anything when it happened.
“We saw the fire engine and everything when that got here, but that’s as much as we saw.”
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“It (the smoke damage) stinks.”
A woman - believed to be a friend of the man’s late mother - living on the street found his dog walking around looking distressed and took it in until it was collected by a friend.
An investigation into the blaze, which broke out at about 2.30am on Thursday, is now underway.
John Allison, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service group manager for Sunderland, said: “An appliance from Sunderland West fire station attended the scene.”
He said the fire was found to be out and crews used specialist equipment to clear the property of smoke.
Mr Allison added: “The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.”
Anyone with information on the incident is urged to contact Northumbria Police on 03456 043 043 ex 69191 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.