AN explosion which destroyed a car in a quiet cul-de-sac is being treated as suspicious.
Within moments, flames spread to two other nearby vehicles, a Mini and a Nissan Qashqai, and the street filled with choking smoke.
One family was forced to evacuate their home until firefighters deemed it safe for them to return several hours later.
Police believe the fire was started by someone throwing something at the Freelander.
Acting Detective Sergeant, Steve Richards, said: "Durham Police is in the early stages of a joint investigation with County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service to establish what has happened in Skipton Close.
“This is a very serious incident and I am pleased to report that no one was seriously injured.
“I would like to appeal to anyone who may have seen anything or know anything to give me a call on 101.
“Your help in identifying who has caused this damage is greatly appreciated."
Two fire engines attended the incident following 21 phone calls from frightened members of the public.
One resident, who asked not to be named, recalled being startled by a loud noise.
He said: “I heard this loud bang and I thought it might have been a door slamming but when I looked out the window there was a big ball of smoke and flames that were higher than the houses.
“It is quite frightening when you live on your own.”
Another neighbour said she was first alerted to the incident by a car alarm going off.
“I looked out of the window and saw someone running away and then there was a big bang,” she added.
Stephen Donaldson and his partner Gemma Allen, who live in the house next door to the car park, fled to a neighbour’s with their two young children while firefighters battled the flames.
Mr Donaldson said: “I heard a bang and thought something had fallen over upstairs but then I looked outside and saw the flames. My top priority was to get Gemma and the kids out.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact DS Richards on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555-111.