Demand for answers as fire blazes in Sunderland city centre

Smoke billowing from the deptford fire. Photo from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.
Smoke billowing from the deptford fire. Photo from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.
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As firefighters continue to tackle an inferno in Sunderland there are calls for answers as to why the building has been left neglected.

At the height of the blaze up to 50 firefighters were on the scene at the disused Alex Smiles premises in Deptford last night.

Huge smoke plumes from the inferno.

Huge smoke plumes from the inferno.

As flames raged from the building, dense smoke could be seen from miles away.

Fire crews work through the night to tackle blaze

Liberal Democrat councillors have spoken out about the blaze.

Andrew Wood, Liberal Democrat Councillor for the area, said: “I’m really concerned about this enormous, dangerous blaze in the heart of the city centre – and grateful on behalf of local residents to the emergency services tackling it.

Councillors Andrew Wood (left) and Niall Hodson.

Councillors Andrew Wood (left) and Niall Hodson.

"Once the immediate danger is addressed, I will be pressing for answers as to how this fire hazard was left unremedied for so long, and what lessons can be learnt from it to prevent such a serious incident in our city centre in the future.”

Niall Hodson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Sunderland Council, added: "I have to wonder why we are facing this situation at all. A Freedom of Information request from the Liberal Democrats revealed the safety risks to the public of this neglected site over two years ago – and the response from the Environment Agency specifically pointed to the risk of fire.

"I’m not convinced we’ve seen sufficient action from the council or the Environment Agency to get the site cleared, and frankly it’s disgraceful given the number of years that have elapsed with this neglected and dangerous waste dump in the city centre. We need some answers urgently about how this was able to happen."

A spokemsan for Tyne and Wear Fire Service, said this morning: "Deptford fire is still ongoing but has been scaled down to three engines and 12 firefighters.

Fire crews tackle the blaze.

Fire crews tackle the blaze.

"Both aerial ladder platforms and high volume pump are still on scene. Please continue to keep doors and windows closed and avoid the area if possible."