BEE hives were destroyed when a gas cylinder exploded on an allotment.
Fire crews were called to an allotment fire at Church Lane, Whitburn, last night after residents reported an explosion at the site.
As firefighters were cooling down the remaining three propane cylinders, they realised the shed next to the blaze was filled with 15 bee hives.
It is believed about half of the hives were destroyed by the fire, while the remainder have survived.
Watch manager Steve Bewick, of Sunderland North Community Fire Station, said: “There was probably about six of the bee hives that were totally destroyed, but we think the rest were okay.”
He added: “We couldn’t get the fire appliance near the fire because there was no access road, which made it very difficult.
“When we got on the scene, the fire was in an allotment and there was four propane cylinders.
“One had exploded before we got there and our main concern was keeping the rest cool as another explosion could have led to a fatality.”
It is thought a fault sparked the blaze.