A fire at a derelict pub near Ilfracombe is believed to have been started deliberately.

Three fire crews and the aerial ladder platform from Barnstaple were called out to the Foxhunters pub in West Down at 5.40pm on Friday (July 10) after reports of flames and smoke coming from the building.

A fourth fire appliance was summoned and police closed the A361.

Western Power were also called out to isolate the electricity supply.

At 8.40pm firefighters confirmed that around half of the building was severely damaged by fire, and the rest had suffered heat and smoke damage. Two fire crews stayed at the scene to deal with hotspots.

At around 9.50pm a fire service spokesman said: “Fire investigation has taken place at this property and the cause of the fire is believed to have been deliberate.”

The owner of the pub, Philip Milton, has made a statement thanking all the firefighters who ‘did a fantastic job containing the fire and limiting damage’.

He continues: “Thank you too for all those sending their kind wishes – it might have been unoccupied but it is still a very stressful situation for us, as owners, to have to deal with all the consequences and we still have many cherished items within the property.

“Apologies too to anyone who may have been inconvenienced from the fire.

“Fortunately, with an excellent, remote-connected intruder and fire alarm contract system, only recently fully serviced, the fire brigade arrived within minutes.

“We arrived just before, living nearby and after a neighbour heard the alarm.

“We are very grateful the fire has been contained in the left upper rear of the property so the original and older parts are largely unaffected aside from limited smoke damage, more so on the almost empty first floor.”

Mr Milton has urged anyone with information about the suspected arson to contact the police.

He said: “We are very grateful that the alarm system worked as it should, that no-one, including any possible intruder, was hurt, that no neighbours have been affected, that the fire was contained rapidly and that the damage is limited and not impacting the historic parts we have always wished to see preserved.”