A SENIOR firefighter has praised emergency services who worked together to tackle a devastating warehouse fire.
Group Manager Keith Trotter, from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, told how fire crews fought the blaze in Chaytor Grove, Hendon, through the night.
A unit used for making furniture and a car repairs business were destroyed by the inferno, while a third unit also suffered minor damage, but evasive action from quick-thinking firefighters stopped the flames from spreading to a fourth.
Five fire engines with about 20 firefighters, police and paramedics were at the scene.
Powerful jets of water were used to protect a nearby building and keyholders for businesses off nearby Hendon Road were put on standby.
Steps were also taken inside the building to prevent the flames tearing through the other units.
Group manager Trotter said: “Watch manager Jeff Simpson and his crews from Sunderland East fire station did an absolutely splendid job of stopping the fire from spreading.
“The three agencies worked excellently together.”
He went on to say initial inquiries suggested the fire started accidentally, as the property was secure and firefighters had to use specialist cutting equipment to get in.
Crews were called to the scene at about 1.40am on Thursday.
Paramedics, including a specialist Hazardous Area Response Team, were also on standby due to the size of the incident and numbers of elderly people living in nearby D’Arcy Court.
At the peak of the blaze there were fears the tower block might have to be evacuated and its power was affected, as soaring temperatures shorted out electricity supplies.
Nearby Raine Grove was cordoned off at one side and residents described being woken by loud bangs as at least one acetylene cylinder in the warehouse exploded.
A massive clean-up operation was launched to remove debris, including potentially-dangerous shards of asbestos from the charred roof.
Investigations into the cause of the blaze had to be put on hold for 24 hours as about nine highly-explosive gas cylinders were believed to be stored inside.
Norma Johnston, assistant head of street scene at Sunderland City Council, said: “Environmental health officers from the health and safety team and other officials of the city council visited the site to assess any damage to buildings and the consequences of the fire.
“Cleansing staff cleared the public footpath and roads around the site. We followed well established guidelines to make sure that any asbestos in the cement dust ejected by the fire was dealt with safely.”