One of North Devons most senior fire fighters says a huge blaze in Exeter is one of the worst he has seen in his 30 year career. Neil Blackburn, group commander for North Devon, has been at the scene of the fire at The Gallery building since 8am today (Friday). Neil said crews from all across North Devon had been joining more than 120 fire fighters in a bid to stop the blaze. The fire broke out at around 5am this morning and has since spread to The Royal Clarence Hotel, thought to be the oldest hotel in the UK. Neil said at this stage he could not guarantee the fire would not spread any further. He told the Gazette: There will be crews there though the night and I would have thought all through tomorrow too. Its the most difficult incident I have had to deal with in my 30 years in the fire service. The buildings are very old and are mostly of a timber construction. Because they are such old buildings there are areas which we cannot commit crews to. The advice from the structural engineers is that its not safe even from the outside of some areas. This makes it very difficult as we have to tackle it from some distance, and obviously buildings are designed to keep water out. Neil said he could not say at this stage which North Devon crews were in attendance but he had seen some familiar faces from Bideford. He added: The important thing is no lives have been lost. Fire fighter safety is paramount at all times and that has to be the priority. Check back for more as we have it.