FORTFIELD INFERNO: ‘children playing at site’- claims

LATEST: Reports of youngsters in blaze hotel but firefighters “confident” no-one is trapped

FIRE chiefs battling an inferno at Sidmouth’s derelict Fortfield Hotel said they were told children had been seen playing at the site- but do not believe anyone is trapped inside.

At the scene, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service group manager Adge Tilke told the Herald: “We were told on arrival by members of the public kids had been seen playing in the hotel for much of the day.”

He added the information was an “ongoing issue” with crews and police.

Mr Tilke subsequently said there was no reason to believe anyone was trapped inside the building.

He said ladders would be placed by the windows if anyone was in there.

“Because the fire started on the top floor I’m confident no one is trapped above that floor,” said Mr Tilke, “there is nothing to inform us there is anyone inside.”

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Fire chiefs deemed the derelict premises dangerous for rescue crews to enter.

“The building is known to us and it has been too risky to commit firefighters into the hotel because of its poor state of repair,” said Mr Tilke.

Two 160feet tall hydraulic ladders are being used to combat flames.

The Esplanade was shut as water was pumped in hoses for more than a mile from the River Sid.

Fire crews are expected to be at the premises all night and into the morning.