Fifteen years ago, one of the UK's most famous stores announced they had failed to secure a buyer and were closing stores across the North East and North Yorkshire. 

Thousands of Woolworths workers in the region faced a grim Christmas after efforts to find a buyer for the chain failed, on December 11, 2008.

The group's 813 stores were to begin a closing down sale – selling off stock at fire sale prices and creating panic among other big high street names desperate to avoid the same fate.

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Staff in some North-East stores only learnt their fate from Sky News.

Many said they were angry to learn of the closures in a short email from Woolworths' head office.

In the North-East and North Yorkshire, Woolworths employed up to 3,000 staff in about 100 branches.

Administrators Deloitte warned in December 2008 that some stores would close before the end of the month if no serious offers for the 99-year-old business emerged.

But the chance of a "white knight" emerging to save the stores group appeared to have gone.

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Woolworths was forced to call in administrators two weeks previously, having made a loss of £72.5m in the six months to August 2, 2008, while also struggling with debts of £295m in a worsening economic climate.

A serious message lay behind a crew of Santas who abseiled down a bridge in December 2008.

Firefighters abseiled down the Transporter Bridge, Middlesbrough, to remind people to be vigilant at this time of year.

The fire safety campaign was launched yesterday at the 180ft landmark by officers from Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough, who braved the cold to make sure their warnings were heeded.

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Government figures reveal that each December, 25 people a day die or are injured in house fires in England, more than any other month.

Spokesman David Atkinson said: "Christmas is a time of having fun with family and friends. However, it is also a time when extra fire hazards are introduced to the home such as fairy lights, candles and decorations. "

People are advised to buy British Standard fairy lights, place candles in holders away from curtains, avoid overloading sockets and never leave cooking unattended.