UPDATE: Ilfracombe hotel wrecked by fire

Joseph Bulmer

Road expected to remain closed for some time as mopping up continues at the disused Southcliffe Hotel in Torrs Park.

A DISUSED Ilfracombe hotel has been left gutted by fire following a blaze this morning (Tuesday.)

At its height eight fire engines from across North Devon and some 50 fire fighters tackled the blaze at the unoccupied Southcliffe Hotel in Torrs Park Road.

Many people telephoned emergency services to raise the alarm just after 6am.

An eyewitness told the Gazette: “I saw the blaze from my house and the height of the fire was incredible.

“It was coming out the top window and towering over the roof. At first I thought it was the parish church due to the angle I was watching from but then realised it was the hotel.

“I called the emergency services but they were already on route. The fire seemed to spread from room to room very quickly; all I could do was hope there wasn’t anyone in there.”

Two appliances from Ilfracombe were soon joined by a further two crews, as well as the water bowser and aerial ladder platform from Barnstaple.

A short time later another two crews were requested and units from Combe Martin, Lynton and Woolacombe are now also attendance along with the incident command unit from Ilfracombe, crewed by fire fighters from Braunton.

Group Commander Neil Blackburn said it took about an hour to bring the blaze under control and it had caused “substantial damage” to the building across all floors.

“It was well established when we arrived and we committed 12 fire fighters wearing breathing apparatus to search the building and make sure no one was inside,” he said.

“Once we were as confident as we could be that no one was inside we went to a defensive position to contain the fire and fight it safely while ensuring there was no risk to the surrounding buildings.”

He added that securing enough water had been a problem, with three mains sources used on the advice of South West Water, while a portable pump was placed in the stream at the bottom of the road.

No properties needed to be evacuated but Torrs Park Road is closed at the moment and is expected to remain so for some time. Fire fighters are expected to remain at the scene for most of the day to ensure the fire is completely out.

Fire investigation officers are currently on site trying to establish the cause of the blaze.