AN investigation has been launched into a fire at a disused pub after firefighters battled to stop it spreading to a nearby petrol station and pizza shop.

Firefighters were alerted at 6.15pm on Sunday after smoke was seen pouring from the roof of the former Station Hotel, in Morton Crescent, Fencehouses.

On arrival, crews from from High Handenhold and Durham stations found the first floor of the pub known locally as 'The Bottom House' well alight and four firefighters wearing breathing apparatus searched the premises to ensure it was empty.

A section of the A1052 was closed during the three-hour firefighting operation.

The derelict premises lies just a few metres on the Durham side of county boundary with Tyne and Wear, formed by an old railway line.

A report by a senior fire officer at the scene was yesterday set to be concluded before a decision is taken whether to request police involvement in the investigation.

Witnesses said the nearby former Comrades Club, in nearby Station Avenue, has been subject of a suspected arson attack within the last few months.