Swimming pool evacuated and doubts over Sunderland vs Newcastle Ladies match after feared deliberate fire breaks out at Hetton sports centre
A swimming pool had to be evactuated and there are doubts over the Sunderland v Newcastle Ladies derby going ahead after a fire broke out at a sports complex - with fears the blaze could have been started deliberately.
Firefighters were scrambled to the blaze at Hetton's sports centre in Bernard Park earlier this evening.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said the fire broke out in the changing rooms of the Eppleton Colliery Welfare football ground.
People using other leisure facilities at the site, which includes a pool and Wellness Centre gym, had to evacuate and the centre remains closed.
The complex is home to Sunderland AFC Ladies, who are due to take on Newcastle Ladies in the Wear-Tyne derby at the weekend.
Alex Scullion, chairman of the Hetton Town Trust and councillor for Houghton, expects the match, due to take place on Sunday August 25 at 2pm, to be called off.
He fears the fire was started deliberately and is expecting an investigation to be carried out.
"It's a dreadful thing to have happen in Hetton," he said.
"It's not the first time we have an incidents, but we've had nothing as bad as this. It's just a great shame for everyone involved."
Coun Scullion said users of the centre were forced to evacuate due to smoke from the blaze.
He said: "I understand there was so much smoke about that it actually filled the leisure facility, including the pool and so on, and as a result of that, they had to evacuate. So it's not good for anyone that this has happened."
Sunderland AFC Ladies are yet to release a statement on the llikelihood of the game going ahead.
Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service said the fire caused damage to the roof of the football ground changing rooms.
Firefighters used breathing apparatus and a hose reel to tackle the blaze.