Police are appealing for information after a fire broke out at the derelict South Park Care Centre on Lakeside in Darlington this afternoon shortly before 3pm. The incident led to a substantial response from County Durham & Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and emergency services. Five fire engines were dispatched to the scene, with firefighters utilising hose reel jets and breathing apparatus (BA) to extinguish the blaze.

Police closed the nearby Lakeside road during the incident, with onlookers at the cordon. Ambulance services were also present at the scene.

The South Park Care Home has a troubled history. The facility was previously cited for inadequate care standards, and experienced financial difficulties prior to its closure in 2016.

Residents in the surrounding area have long expressed concerns about the abandoned building and the lack of security, with speculation that the building would be eventually be hit by a fire.

A spokesperson from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) said: “Shortly before 3pm yesterday (Sunday) we were alerted to a fire at a disused care home on Lakeside in Darlington.

“A total of five fire appliances attended the scene and firefighters wearing specialist breathing apparatus entered the property to tackle a fire on the ground floor.

“The fire was extinguished, and the property searched to ensure no one was inside.

“Firefighters left the scene shortly before 6.30pm.“CDDFRS are working closely with Durham Constabulary to establish the cause of the fire.”

Durham Constabulary said “We were alerted to a fire at the derelict South Park Care Centre on Lakeside, in Darlington, yesterday afternoon (February 11).

Colleagues from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service also attended the scene and extinguished the blaze.

The fire is believed to have been started deliberately sometime between 2.15pm and 2.40pm. Officers would like to speak to any witnesses or anyone who may have CCTV or dashcam footage from the area at the time of the incident.

Detective Sergeant Liam Robertson, from Darlington CID, said: “This is a derelict building and the suspects escaped the premises without suffering any injuries, but this could easily have been a very different outcome if they had been trapped within the building.

“I’d like to appeal directly to parents of young people in the area – if you are aware of your child’s involvement in this incident then you should make yourselves known to us.”

Please contact Durham Constabulary on 101, quoting incident number 245 of February 11 with any information.

Information can also be passed on to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.