Northumberland’s only crematorium will be closed for some time following a fire early Thursday morning.
Fire crews were called at 5.20am after police received a report of a blaze at Cowpen Cemetery in Blyth.
We will be contacting the affected families directly to refund their fees and also to offer them financial support of £650 to help them make alternative arrangementsCoun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment
Early indications are that the fire has caused significant damage to the rear of the building.
And Northumberland County Council has said cremation services for the remainder of the month have had to be cancelled.
Funeral directors have been informed and they will be liaising with the families involved to make alternative arrangements.
The historic chapels at the site have not been directly affected, but for safety reasons they will be closed until a structural assessment of the rear of the building is completed.
Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said: “We appreciate the significant distress and inconvenience this will cause to families.
“We will be contacting the affected families directly to refund their fees and also to offer them financial support of £650 to help them make alternative arrangements.
“It is a vital service for our community and I’d like to give my assurance that we will be making it our number one priority to get this facility up and running again as quickly as possible.
“We will provide updates on the repair programme and timescales as soon as we are in a position to do so.
“We are also working with neighbouring local authorities to increase the number of services that they are able to undertake in order to reduce the distress to affected families.”
An assessment of the full damage is being made today although it is already known that there has been significant damage caused to the electrics, structural damage to the steel work and to the roof.
The crematorium was in the process of undergoing major renovation work and already had a waiting list of a number of weeks.