DOZENS of care home residents had to be evacuated last night after a blaze inside a porch threatened to get out of control.
Up to 35 pensioners were moved to a nearby building while firefighters dealt with the fire, which destroyed an armchair and caused damage to the carpet, walls and ceiling of the porch.
The fire at Peterlee Care Home, in the town’s Westcott Road, is being treated as suspicious and an investigation has been launched.
Fire chiefs say residents had a “lucky” escape as the fire could have spread if two interior doors had been open.
Two crews from Peterlee Fire Station raced to the scene at 10.30pm last night and found the porch well alight.
Some of the residents needed medical treatment for shock and smoke inhalation and five ambulances were called to the scene.
Everyone was back inside their rooms by 11.30pm, once smoke had been cleared from the building, and the care home is operating as normal today.
Kevin Croft, crew manager, said: “It was quite a traumatic experience for the residents.
“They had a lucky escape because if the doors to the foyer area had been open then it is likely to have spread to the rest of the building.
“The building was smoke logged and we had to make sure it wasn’t harmful so the residents were moved through the fire escape.
“Everybody was allowed back in once it was deemed safe.”
Fire chiefs say a youth was seen running away from the scene shortly before the fire.