North Devon fire fighters thanked for ‘tireless’ efforts and giving up their weekends to help control huge fire at Cathedral Green in Exeter.

A huge fire in Exeter has now been contained, according to firefighters.

Crews from across Devon remained at Cathedral Yard last night (Sunday) continuing to fight the blaze which broke out on Friday morning.

North Devon crews have been joining the efforts which have ripped through the old, timber-framed buildings.

Neil Blackburn, group commander for North and West Devon, told the Gazette the fire was one of the most difficult he had worked with in 30 years.

Exeter's Royal Clarence Hotel, destroyed by fire. Picture by D&C Police DronesExeter's Royal Clarence Hotel, destroyed by fire. Picture by D&C Police Drones

He has praised fire fighters from North Devon for giving up their weekends to join the efforts at Cathedral Green.

Mr Blackburn said North Devon fire fighters had worked ‘tirelessly’ to fight the flames and prevent the fire spreading to Exeter High Street.

He said: “There was a great response from North Devon crew members taking on additional shifts and giving up their days off.

“We even had somebody miss their anniversary dinner to come and help; it was a tremendous commitment from all of our staff.

“Most of the crews are retained and they worked all week, so that was their time off.”

Mr Blackburn said fire fighters were extremely grateful for the support from businesses in Exeter, who had turned up at the scene with teas, coffees, and even pizzas.

He added: “I want to say a huge thank you not only to the crews, but to the employers of the retained fire fighters, as it would have had an impact on them too.”

Andrew Brownsword, owner of the Royal Clarence Hotel, also thanked fire fighters for ensuring the safety of hotel guests, who were evacuated safely.

Exeter's Royal Clarence Hotel, destroyed by fire. Photo by D&C Police DronesExeter's Royal Clarence Hotel, destroyed by fire. Photo by D&C Police Drones

He added: “The Royal Clarence Hotel has long been a special place for my family and I and it is with great sadness that we witnessed events as they unfolded.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected in Exeter and in due course we will look to the future of The Royal Clarence Hotel.”

Representatives from the police, fire service and Exeter City Council gave an update on the fire that has been burning in Cathedral Yard yesterday.

A Devon and Somerset Fire Service representative said the risk of the building collapse was a danger to crews to get inside to extinguish the remaining flames.

He said: “The crews have been working tirelessly through the night.

“It was hard work to stop the fire spreading to other buildings in the high street. These are old Tudor buildings they do not have the fire protection that modern buildings have.

“I would like to say that crews are going to work as tirelessly as they can to get this area back to normal as soon as possible.”

A Devon and Cornwall spokesman said public safety was their number one concern while trying to help businesses around the city return to normal.

Yesterday evening the fire service discontinued the wearing of breathing apparatus by crews, which suggests the fire has been controlled.

Crews remained at the Cathedral Yard overnight, dampening down the smouldering site and watching for any new outbreaks or pockets of fire.

A Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Breathing apparatus has been discontinued and they are monitoring the site. That suggests it has been contained.

“They are watching now to make sure it doesn’t break.”

Fire fighters are thought to remain at the scene for the rest of the week, and cordons put in place will be removed as the scene becomes safe.