SHOPPERS had to be evacuated from a city centre store after a fire broke out in its cafe.
People were led to safety from Wilkinsons, in Fawcett Street, by staff after the alarm was raised at 11.15am on Saturday.
A small fire took hold in a gas oven on the third floor of the building.
Workers in the kitchen doused the flames with a fire blanket and set off the store’s fire alarms, before calling 999.
Lifts in the store were closed down and a small group of people who were too elderly or infirm to use the stairs were gathered at a specially-designed safe refuge point on the stairway.
Five fire engines were sent to the scene from Sunderland East, Central and North fire stations and also an appliance from Newcastle South station, which was in the area.
Six firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the building and led the remaining people to safety.
Firefighters remained at the scene for about an hour-and-a-half and the store was able to reopen.
Watch manager Jeff Simpson, from Sunderland East station, said: “The staff did a good job in extinguishing the fire.”