A bar manager is hoping to meet the passer-by who may have saved lives after alerting the emergency services when her pub was firebombed.
Police have launched an investigation after a lit bottle containing flammable liquid was thrown into a small kitchen at Oddies, in Hylton Road, near Sunderland city centre, in the early hours.
Officers say the attack could “easily have resulted in fatalities”.
The pub was closed at the time, but a passerby saw the blaze and immediately rang 999, which meant the four people who were in the flats above the bar were able to get out safely.
Today, Oddies manager Natalie Connify told the Echo: “The passer-by might well have saved lives by doing what they did.
“It could have been a lot worse.
“Whoever it is who called in, we’ve got to say a big thank you.”
Three fire crews rushed to the scene of the blaze and managed to put it out quickly. Those living upstairs managed to get out before the arrival of the emergency services and none were injured.
Bosses say they are mystified as to why the popular watering hole was targeted.
“I got a phone call at about 12.50am and I was here within minutes because I don’t live far away,” said Natalie, 48.
“I don’t understand why anyone would do this. We haven’t had any trouble for a while.
“There were people who’d been at a funeral in the pub the day before, but there was no trouble at all.
“The kitchen isn’t a commercial one, just small, so it shouldn’t cost too much to repair.
“We’re waiting for the fire brigade to complete their investigation and we’ll start sorting things.”
David Blynch, who lives in Milburn Street in a house which is joined to the pub, said: “My dog was going berserk at the time of the fire.
“It makes you wonder about how safe you are when things like this happen.
“It’s bad enough setting fire to the pub but even worse when people are in it at the time.
“The fire could have ended up spreading to my house as well.”
Natalie said she and other members of staff at the pub wanted to pay tribute to the passer-by.
“If they were to come forward we’d really like to say thanks,” she said.
“If it hadn’t been for them ringing in, someone could have died.”
Police are appealing for witnesses and anyone who was in the Hylton Road area at about 12.45am on Tuesday and who may have seen or heard anything suspicious is being asked to contact police.
Neighbourhood Inspector Jamie Southwell said: “We want to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time of the incident and who may have seen or heard anything which could assist our inquiries.
“It was extremely fortunate that no-one was injured as this could easily have resulted in fatalities.”
Anyone with information should call police on 101, quoting reference number 31 of 24/01/17 or ring the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.