INVESTIGATIONS are continuing today into the source of a blaze which killed five horses at a stables in Sunderland.
Horse owners have been left devastated after their animals were killed in the blaze at a livery yard.
The cause of the fire, thought to have started some time between 4.30am and 5am yesterday at Station House Stables in Coxgreen Road, Cox Green, Penshaw, has not yet been established.
Residents said a female police officer on patrol in Washington saw smoke and called for help before heading to the yard and opening stable doors to rescue 15 horses.
She was assisted by David Grieves, a neighbouring horse owner, who saw the blaze when he was on his way to work.
Dean Mould, part-owner of the family-run stables, whose partner Emma also helped with the rescue attempt, said: “I was just shocked and panicked when I saw the fire.
“We kept 20 horses and ponies in the livery yard and 15 of them were let out but the five that were in the barn died.
“The owners are all devastated. Two of the horses belonged to little girls who are just heartbroken and they can’t believe it.
“Thankfully the other horses were let out because it could have been a lot worse.”
Damage caused by the fire is thought to run into thousands of pounds, and the combined value of the horses is said to be in the thousands too.
Firefighters arrived on scene just after 5am and stayed for around five hours.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “At 5am police were informed about a fire at a stables at Coxgreen Road in Coxgreen, Houghton-le-Spring.
“Police attended and roads around the stables were closed so that the horses could be released and moved to safety and placed in a nearby field. Five horses died as a result of the fire.
“The occupants on the farm were evacuated as a precaution, they were not injured in the incident.”
Two fire engines from Washington Community Fire Station attended the scene. Tyne and Wear Fire and rescue service said the building was divided into three stable blocks, one of which was completely destroyed by fire.
A second block was damaged by fire and smoke, while the third block suffered moderate smoke damage.
Group manager John Allison, said: “Our deepest sympathies go out to the owners of the horses that tragically died in this fire.
“The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.”