FIFTY firefighters from across the North-East battled through the night to extinguish a fatal fire at a block of flats.

A blaze that broke out in the early hours of Wednesday morning claimed the life of one person and left Thornaby’s 12-floor Anson House significantly damaged.

Ten fire crews from across the region were dispatched to the tower block at around 1.40am, eventually managing to put the fire out at 3.41am.

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Having bravely fought the flames to enter the burning flat, firefighters found that an as yet unidentified person had perished in the fire. As they continued to tackle the blaze, residents were evacuated from the top three floors of the tower block, with Stockton Council opening a nearby leisure centre to offer shelter.

A neighbour whose property overlooks Anson House said: “"I woke up to all the commotion at about 1.30am.

“I looked out of my window and saw fire and flames and all the firemen. It was really scary."

Firefighters and police were conducting investigations at the site on Wednesday morning, with all but the top floor residents having been invited to return home.

Broken windows and scorched brickwork marked the location of the fire, the cause of which could take “days, not hours” to uncover.

Incident commander Dave Turton, of Cleveland Fire Brigade, said a joint investigation between the emergency services was currently underway to establish what had happened.

He added: ““We would like to offer our condolences to the family of the person involved.

“Fortunately and mercifully for our crews and everyone else, fires of this severity are very rare.

“We are well trained in dealing with them but I would also like to thank those crews that were involved in the operation, who did an excellent job in difficult circumstances.”

Mr Turton said crews had travelled to the fire from Thornaby, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Grangetown, Hartlepool, Saltburn, Coulby Newham and Billingham.

On Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for Cleveland Police said: "A body has been found in the property by emergency services, and officers are currently treating the death and fire as unexplained with investigations being at an early stage.

"Detectives and fire officers will be at the address while investigations continue. It would be usual practice for police to initially investigate a fire of this nature until a cause is identified."