A building at the side of a former working mens club has been set on fire in a suspected arson attack.
Fire crews from Rainton Bridge, Birtley, Washington and Farringdon were called to the former Comrades Club in Station Avenue North, Fencehouses, Houghton-le-Spring, at around 5.10pm today.
The alarm was raised after residents saw flames coming from a small building adjacent to the main building which had once housed a pet shop and taxi rank.
The blaze had spread to a live electrical cable, causing a further risk, but was prevented from spreading to the former club due to the quick response of firefighters.
Watchmanager James Ferguson said: "If we had been 10 minutes later there is no doubt the fire would have spread to the building.
"We have been extremely lucky to catch it when we did.
"We are treating it as suspicious and information has been passed onto the police."
He added: "We spent some time getting the fire under control and it was only due to the quick response from the crews we were able to stop the fire from spreading to the club.
"We can't stress enough how dangerous it is for people to hang around abandoned buildings and how quickly fires can spread.
"I would ask parents to speak to their children and remind them of these dangers before someone is seriously injured or even killed."
Watchmanager Ferguson also thanked the public for their assistance and co-operation with the crews.
Northern Power Grid attended the venue to cut off the electrical supply and information regarding the fire has been passed to the police.