A number of firefighters are still damping down at the scene of a fire in a disused play centre in Washington.
A spokeswoman for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said they were called to Jungle Rama in Victoria Road, shortly after 4.30pm today.
At the height of the fire, the service had seven pumps in attendance and two aerial ladder platforms.
However, it is not believed there was anybody inside. A structural engineer will have to examine the scene before firefighters are cleared to enter the building.
Group manager Tony Markwell of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: "The call initially came in at about 4.30pm. First of all we had four pumps in attendance. When we got here the officer in charge realised it was a major incident and made it seven pumps, with two aerial ladder platforms.
"The roof has collapsed which has actually helped, it just suffocates the fire.
"We will be here for some time. I don't know how long. There will be fire investigations.
"The cause is unknown at this point and we will be working closely with the police."
Jennifer Jordan, shift manager at the William de Wessyngton pub, said: "We saw the blaze start.
"At first we evacuated the back room then I got told by the officer I had to evacuate the place.
"We just followed the standard procedure, got everybody out, checked the pub and made sure there was nobody left in.
"The building has been derelict for quite a few years now. It just needed knocking down, to be honest."
Northumbria Police Neighbourhood Inspector Vicky Quinn said: "We've had problems with youth disorder in the area in the past but it has been dealt with.
"We've not had anything like this in the area for some time."
Lesley Thoburn, whose shop K and L Thoburn backs onto the former cinema and bingo hall said it had been one of her staff who raised the alarm.
"We were sitting there having a cuppa and Janice Klein, who works in our other shop, turned up . She said: 'I need to phone the fire brigade - Junglerama is on fire'," said Lesley.
"The fire brigade came down and we told them to go round the back, because it is just behind the back yard."
Staff had been warned to stay away from the rear of the property amid fears the site may be contaminated with asbestos.
"They have told us we can't stay out there. We were in the back yard but we have had to come back into the shop in case there's anything," said Lesley.