A Wearside house which was severely damaged in a fire had a cannabis farm inside it, authorities have said.
Police and fire bosses say that the recent house fire in Croft Avenue in Millfield, Sunderland, highlighted the devastating consequences that can be caused by cultivating cannabis plants in domestic properties.
The entire house was damaged and the fire also spread to a neighbouring property, badly damaging its roof.
The blaze, which happened on January 19, was tackled by a total of 28 firefighters.
It took four hose reels and a water jet on the ground, plus another hose reel operated from an aerial ladder platform, to put it out.
Assistant chief fire officer Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Apart from being illegal, cannabis farms present a clear danger to anyone in the house, their neighbours and firefighters.
“Often they are situated in attics and loft spaces, making it easier for fire to spread to adjoining properties.
“In many cases, the perpetrators bypass the electrical system to power heat lamps, which means they are not protected by a fuse.
“If there is a power surge or the lamps overheat, they will not trip out and can quickly lead to a fire.
“Landlords have a responsibility to check on their tenants and be aware of what their properties are being used for.
“Any illegal activity such as cultivating cannabis plants should be reported to the police immediately.”
The fire is not being treated as arson, although enquiries are ongoing into the production of cannabis.
Neighbourhood Inspector Jamie Southwell said: “Our priority is making sure our communities are safer places and it is obvious cultivating cannabis has a knock on effect in our communities, whether it be the dangers of causing a fire or the associated crime and disorder that comes with it.
“Information we receive from members of the public is absolutely crucial in helping us to identify where someone may be growing cannabis inside the property and I can offer my assurance that we will look into any concerns we receive.
“Tell-tale signs can be blacked out windows or windows covered in newspaper, or the curtains always closed.
“Maybe there is a strange smell coming from the property or there may be an intense heat inside.
“If anyone has concerns we want to hear from them. It may be there is nothing untoward, but if they are genuine concerns we can check it out and be sure.”
Members of the public who want to report concerns to police should contact Northumbria Police on 101.