AN INVESTIGATION is underway into what started a fire which tore through a terraced house in Sunderland.
Five fire engines raced to the scene adjacent to The Royalty Theatre off Chester Road after the alarm as raised shortly before noon.
The house, described as “well alight” during the height of the blaze, was left severely damaged, with both upstairs and downstairs windows blackened and damaged.
Part of The Royalty and nearby streets were cordoned off and busses were diverted as the fire was tackled.
Katie Knapp, 22, who lives opposite, said she had been inside her flat when she smelled smoke.
She said: “It was obviously a bit of a shock when I first came out and saw the fire. At first I was concerned there might be someone in there, but they told me there wasn’t.”
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service group manager John Hall, told the Echo the fire had been “severe”.
“We don’t know how it started,” he said. “It developed very quickly, it was well alight.
“We conducted a search established there was nobody inside.
“We were quite concerned about the fire spreading through the roof voids, so we’ve had to concentrate on that.”
He added: “We are waiting for a fire investigations officer.”
A spokeswoman for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: “We understand that this is a fire in a domestic house next to the Royalty Theatre.
“There are appliances from Sunderland Central, Gateshead, Washington, Farringdon and Fulwell in attendance, plus an aerial ladder platform.
“The fire was first reported at 11.47am.”