FAMILIES have been forced to leave their homes following a serious fire which ripped through a neighbouring haulage yard.

Residents were evacuated from the properties surrounding the Ramshaw Removals premises on Swan Street, in Evenwood, near Bishop Auckland, during the blaze.

Firefighters tackled the flames for eight hours on Thursday before bringing it under control at around 9pm.

Last night half a dozen properties in Newholme Crescent, behind the transport firm, were still cordoned off by police tape.

Displaced residents have had no choice but to seek alternative accommodation and now householders of three homes have accepted an offer of rehousing.

Beccy Rees-Fuller has decided to leave her home of six years permanently for another property in the street in a bid to minimise further upheaval for her children.

Her home suffered damage as a result of diesel which is understood to have not only contaminated the garden but seeped underneath the house.

She said: "My house took the brunt because it's the highest. I came back at one point and the garden was a foot deep in diesel.

"It's heartbreaking that I don't want to come back here. It could take months to fix the garden and when it rains it's going to wash back in.

"I don't have insurance which is devastating because I can't get anything replaced

"I've lost everything - all the beds and the furniture - and one of the kids' teddy bears smells like it's been dipped in diesel.

"I've got scabs from crying, it's really really difficult and I'm literally devastated."

A tenant of North Star Housing Group, she had just spent about £3,500 redecorating over the last two months and was just putting the finishing touches to the home she shared with her three children, aged 14, nine and three.

She and another North Star Housing Group tenant will be rehomed while the organisation has also agreed to rehouse a private owner.

Ms Rees-Fuller praised the housing group for their help in finding a new home for her family on Friday.

She has also paid tribute to the village for rallying around to help those affected including the Cornerstone Christian Centre which has offered cleaning supplies.

"The spirit of the community has been amazing", she added. "People have dropped boxes off and have offered to help. I can't thank everyone enough."

An ongoing investigation between County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service was launched last week following the fire.

Ten appliances including those from Bishop Auckland, Crook and Spennymoor fought the flames which engulfed a number of shipping containers and light goods vehicles.

One firefighter was injured in a minor explosion during the blaze and was taken to hospital with minor burns and a suspected concussion.

A spokesperson for the service yesterday said he had not yet returned to work but was expected to be back soon.

Emma Speight, executive director for asset and growth, for North Star Housing Group, said the organisation was working with Durham County Council to help temporarily rehouse residents and would work with the authority to inspect their damaged properties and aimed to get them back into use as soon as possible.