[P]olice are appealing for witnesses after a fire at a North Tyneside church last night.
At around 8.25pm on Saturday police received a report that the Trinity United Reform Church on the Esplanade in Whitley Bay was on fire.
Emergency services attended the scene and a number of roads were closed to allow them to get the fire under control.
A number of nearby residents were evacuated and a refuge centre was set up at a nearby church on Oxford Street.
The fire was eventually extinguished by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue service but emergency services remain at the scene this morning to carry out enquiries.
An investigation is already underway to establish the cause of the fire but police are treating the incident as suspicious and have already arrested a 56-year-old man in connection with the incident.
He remains in police custody as police continue their enquiries and officers are now appealing for anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area to get in touch.
Detective Inspector Jane Fairlamb said: “This was a large operation involving a number of partners, all agencies worked together to extinguish the fire and I want to personally thank all of them for their hard work in ensuring that it did not spread to neighbouring properties.
“The fire was successfully extinguished overnight but a number of people have been housed in temporary accommodation while we carry out some further structural investigations.
“We want to thank all those affected for their patience whilst we dealt with the incident and also thank everyone who supported the emergency services who responded to the incident last night.
“A full investigation into the cause of the fire is underway and we are now appealing for anyone who saw anyone acting suspiciously in the area to get in touch. If you know who is responsible then we need to hear from you.”
If you have any information that may help the police investigation then contact officers on 101 quoting log 1028 06/05/17 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.