Arson probe at young farmers' hotel in Devon

Image caption,
Ten fire engines attended the Bancourt Hotel after the fire broke out in the early hours

A fire at a hotel where more than 100 young farmers were staying is being treated as arson with intent to endanger life, police said.

The blaze broke out in the basement bar of the Bancourt Hotel in Torquay, Devon, in the early hours of Sunday.

Three people were injured, including a staff member, and taken to Torbay District Hospital.

Police called the fire "reckless and purposeful" and said it could have had "fatal consequences".

Up to 80 guests, all of whom were young farmers, were evacuated from the hotel in Avenue Road when the fire broke out at just after midnight on Sunday.

The National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs' (NFYFC) annual convention was being held in Torquay this weekend.

'Significant damage'

Image caption,
Police are treating the incident as arson with intent to endanger life and remain on scene with fire investigators

Ten fire engines attended the scene, and firefighters spent several hours scouring the building to ensure everyone was accounted for.

Two people suffered from the effects of smoke inhalation and another sustained a cut to the arm.

All of the hotel's guests, more than 100 people, were given overnight accommodation at the Riviera International Conference Centre.

The bar area suffered what was described as "significant" damage and the rest of the building was affected by smoke.

Image source, Farmers Guardian
Image caption,
Hotel guests were evacuated to Torquay's Riviera International Conference Centre where they spent the night

Det Sgt Andy Penhaligon from Torquay CID, said: "Fortunately, there were only three minor injuries but this reckless and purposeful action could have had far more serious, even fatal, consequences.

"I would pay credit to the firefighters and police officers, plus the hotel owners and staff, whose swift actions and partnership work ensured the safety of guests and members of the public."

He appealed for anyone who saw suspicious activity around the hotel to come forward.

The young farmers involved are understood all to be from two Welsh clubs, Brecknock and Radnor.

They had been attending a prince and princess-themed fancy dress night, and local shops and Torbay Council came to the rescue with donations of clothes, towels and bedding, the NFYFC said.

Image caption,
Heather Black said the young people had been advised to look out for their friends during the event

Heather Black from the NFYFC said: "We were immediately able to move into action to find those young people, some of which were in the centre with us and some which were across the town.

"We were very pleased to be able to find them all very quickly. We had great help from local services to do that."

The NFYFC said it has set up an incident telephone line for anyone concerned about a family member at the convention, on 07495 903 430.

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