A pigeon fancier has been left heartbroken suspected arsonists started a blaze at an allotment site.
Pensioner Stan Corner now faces a massive clean up task to rebuild the devastated lofts on the Easington Street site.
Firefighters were called to the area at 7.20pm on Wednesday to the blaze which was ripping through the sheds.
Four crews, from South Shields, Sunderland, Farringdon and Marley Park, supported by an aerial ladder platform, managed to save 23 of the birds, however, three pigeons died in the fire.
An investigation is now underway by both the fire service and the police as to the cause of the blaze, but it is suspected to be arson.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Corner, Ronnie Evans said: “The fire started in the bottom cree which was empty, but the flames spread and three of the birds died.
“It is going to take a lot of hard work to get it back to how it was,”Ronnie Evans
“There are others that aren’t too good at the moment after being affected by the smoke.
“But whether it’s three or 23 birds that died, it is still devastating for Stan.
“The place has been gutted by the fire and it is going to take a lot of hard work to get it back to how it was, but none of us are as young as we used to be.
“If anyone could help out, as the walkway was also destroyed, we would be grateful.”
Mr Corner, who is in his 70s, has kept birds on the site for the past 42 years.
At one time he used to race his pigeons, however, ill-health forced him to give it up.
Instead he keeps the birds as pets attending to them on a daily basis.
Mr Evans added: “We don’t know how the fire started, but it is thought it was done deliberately.
“The fire brigade were brilliant as it is in a hard location to get to. We can’t thank them enough as it could have been a lot worse than what it was.
“I have some space where I keep my pigeons where Stan can rehome his pigeons until we can somehow manage to sort the place out.”
Three pigeon crees were destroyed in the blaze. Two portable cabins were also damaged by heat and smoke.
The cause of the fire is suspected arson and is currently being investigated by police.
Group manager Ian Cuskin, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Incidents of this nature are extremely distressing for everyone involved.
“I order to reduce the risk of further incidents occurring We would urge occupiers of allotments and small holdings to ensure they take reasonable security measures on their premises.”