People working in a street in which fire ripped through a Sunderland takeaway shop have spoken of their shock at the suspected arson attack.
A blaze which investigators believe was started deliberately gutted Forhan's in Ethel Terrace in the Castletown area.
People inside the flats above the shop and neighbouring stores had to get out following the fire, which broke out shortly after 2.30am today.
Fire crews from three different Wearside stations went to the scene to put out the blaze.
Luckily, nobody was hurt.
Police and fire crews were still at the scene this morning and the cause is now being treated as a suspected arson.
A front window had been blown out and extensive damage inside the takeaway could clearly be seen from outside.
Those who work in Ethel Terrace have spoken of their shock at the incident.
One woman who works in a shop nearby but did not want to be named said: "This could have been a lot worse.
"A family who live in one of the flats a couple of doors along had to leave and stay with one of the neighbours who took them in so they had somewhere to stay.
"It's such a shame because the shop owner has put a lot of work in and the place is really busy. We just hope he can get sorted."
The woman added that other businesses in the area have been offering help to those affected.
"It's a close-knit community and everybody watches each other's backs," she said.
"All of us who work in the shops get on with each other.
"Already people have said they'll go into the shop and help to sort it out when the police let them back in."
Another woman, who also works in a shop in Ethel Terrace, said: "You can smell the smoke everywhere in the street.
"It's lucky that no-one was killed in it because the fire was that bad."
Following the blaze the owners of Forhan's posted on Facebook how their thoughts were with the families whose homes had been damaged.
It said: "Forhan's will be closed for the time being due to a fire that’s happened in the middle of the night.
"We are absolutely gutted for the families who have lost their homes barely a month before Christmas, but thankfully no one has been hurt.
"We will be back up and running as soon as we can get sorted."
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said: “At 2.50am today police were alerted to a fire at a premises on Ethel Terrace, Sunderland. “Emergency services attended the scene and the blaze was extinguished.
"Nobody was injured.
“At this stage, police are treating the cause of the fire as suspected arson. Inquiries are ongoing."
A Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said: "At 2.39am firefighters from Marley Park, Sunderland Central and Washington Community Fire Stations attended Ethel Terrace in Castletown.
"This was a two-storey mid-terrace property comprising of a ground floor of a takeaway shop and a flat above."
"The cause is currently under investigation."