A DRAMATIC evacuation took place at a Darlington fish and chip cafe after fire swept through its kitchen area.

Smoke could be seen billowing out of Cockerton Fisheries off Woodland Road near Cockerton Green at about 12.20pm today (November 8) and around a dozen diners and staff members had to fight their way past the blazing kitchen area to escape the building.

Three fire engines and an ambulance attended and although nobody was injured, a Cockerton Fisheries staff member needed treatment at the scene for a suspected panic attack.

Firefighters extinguished the fire before it could spread to any of the other shops in the seven-strong parade and Steve Cummings, Darlington fire station manager, said its source was believed to be the cooking range in Cockerton Fisheries.

He added that a full fire investigation would be taking place.

Pat Johnson, 61 and Pat Wilson, 67, were inside the cafe enjoying their chips when the fire broke out and Ms Johnson was the last to be evacuated from the building.

She said: “I didn’t know anything until they started shouting ‘get out, get out the place is on fire!’

“We all had to come out through the smoke, you could see the flames in the front part; the cafe is behind the cooking area so we had to go past the flames to get out.

“All the flames were really high, it wasn’t just a little fire.”

Ms Wilson added: “It puts the wind up you.

“When you’re getting old you can’t get out as quickly.

“The smoke started blowing up really quickly, we were just lucky to get out really.”

John Raine, 52, owns the Happy Days card shop next door to Cockerton Fisheries and called the fire brigade after being told about the blaze by a fisheries staff member.

He said: “I locked my shop up and could see there was a lot of smoke coming out so I rang the fire brigade.

“There were some big flames, you could see them through the window of the fish shop and they were quite tall,” said Mr Raine who added that he was worried about possible smoke damage to his stock.

Police cordoned off the parade of shops for about an hour while firefighters in breathing apparatus made sure the building was safe.

The Northern Echo has so far been unable to contact the owners of the cafe for comment.