Hotel blaze sparks fresh fears
CALLS have been made to ensure buildings earmarked for development in Newquay are demolished following a major fire at a derelict hotel on Saturday morning.
Firefighters, councillors and residents are urging Cornwall Council to take action after a suspected arson attack at the former Riviera Hotel in Lusty Glaze Road at 6.30am.
More than 60 firefighters onboard 10 appliances from around mid-Cornwall, as well as an aerial platform, attended the blaze which took hold on the first and second floors. Firefighters received intelligence that homeless people could be trapped inside but no one was found following a thorough search of the 50 rooms after the fire was brought under control.
Six residents living in the adjacent Clarendon Court were evacuated to the Barrowfields as thick smoke had started to envelop the building. Two sisters in their eighties – Joan Williams and Olive Gardner – were treated at the scene by paramedics for smoke inhalation.
Neighbours organised a bench and blankets for the elderly women as they had become stressed. The evacuated residents were able to go back into their properties after 90 minutes. The flames were extinguished by 10.30am.
Two fire crews from Newquay were quickly on the scene as the station is currently manned 24 hours a day. A fire investigation is now underway but arson is suspected as there is no electricity in the building.
A passing cyclist raised the alarm at Clarendon Court.
It is the second fire at the site in less than a year and there have been several other arson attacks at derelict hotels in recent years, including the Pendennis on Mount Wise and the Talavera on Trebarwith Crescent.
It has been estimated the operation to put out the latest fire at the Riviera Hotel cost in the region of £16,000.
Watch manager Sean Taylor said: “When we arrived we were faced with a fully developed fire on the first and second floors. We evacuated Clarendon Court as there was heavy smoke drifting towards it. We used jets of water from the ground, then we put the ladders up to the windows to tackle the fire using hoses again. Initially we were told there were persons in the building. Due to the nature of the premises being derelict it presents extreme hazards to firefighters.
“Once we brought the fire under control we committed crews with breathing apparatus to search the premises and to extinguish the remainder of the fire and to confirm no one was in the property. We were able to save the property and prevent damage to adjacent property.
“We have attended this property on numerous occasions for deliberate fires, which we believe this to be one of. Although the owners have secured the premises, homeless people are gaining entry to the property.
“For the safety of firefighters, members of the public and these people who see the chance to reside in these derelict properties, it would be far better that all empty buildings that have been earmarked for development should be demolished.”
Residents of Clarendon Court have described how they “feared for their lives” after being confronted by the fire.
Jenny Adamson said: “The first we knew of the fire was when the bell rang and a passing cyclist said could I wake everyone up as the Riviera was on fire. I looked out and saw the flames and smoke billowing toward us. I rang the neighbours.
“I woke my husband up and drove our vehicle away from the fire as I did not want it to explode and cause more drama for the fire brigade. We were scared for our lives at one point. One of the old ladies was particularly coughing badly.”
Mrs Adamson is desperate for the building to be pulled down.
She said: “How many times does this hotel go on fire? Twice so far. No lives have been lost but we might not be so lucky a third time. The building should have been demolished three years ago. We have contacted the owners but their attitude is they cannot afford to knock it down. What terrifies us is if smoke smoulders in our property – we could be burnt in our beds if no one went past and raised the alarm. If the place was pulled down it would be the biggest relief. People are stunned it’s still there. It’s a living nightmare.
“How much more money is this going to cost the fire brigade and the police?”
Neighbour Christian De Castro said: “There was a lot of smoke and flames. The elderly ladies were quite stressed by it.”
Neighbour Gareth Williams said: ”We thought it was quite wise to leave because there were some nasty flames. As a result of the latest fire we’re hoping the place gets taken down and rebuilt because it’s been like that for a long time.
Cornwall councillors Geoff Brown and Patrick Lambshead attended the scene of the fire.
Cllr Brown said: “I'm concerned that once again our dedicated fire officers have been called on to enter a derelict and potentially dangerous building to ensure public safety. I will now be working with colleagues, council officers and property owners to seek a permanent solution to this on-going problem which affects a small number of similar properties in the area.”
Cllr Lambshead said: “This is the second fire there in recent times. On the last occasion people were seen running from the building. It would appear that this was a case of arson as well.
“I was informed it would only cost £70,000 to demolish the building. I have to say that Acorn, who own the site, have been as good as they can possibly be in trying to keep people out by boarding up the ground floor. I have asked the fire incident commander present to put the firmest report in that he can to Cornwall Council, both from an environmental perspective and the cost of £16,000.”
Cornwall Council says it has limited powers to demand that the owners of a derelict property demolish the building.
A spokesman said: “Over recent years, due to stagnation of the property market, there has been a proliferation of empty properties in and around the Newquay town centre area. These properties become dumping grounds for fly-tipping and squatting.
“Officers from Environmental Health, Planning Enforcement and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service regularly review these properties and advise owners on the steps they need to take to make them secure.
“The former Riviera Hotel has once again been damaged by fire and the fire service and Environmental Health have been in contact with the owners, Acorn Blue, to arrange for the property to be boarded and the rear of the property hoarded to prevent access. The council has limited powers when it comes to requiring the owners to demolish the building but will continue to monitor and take action where appropriate. Planning consent was issued in June 2011 for the existing hotel to be replaced with 33 holiday apartments in an aparthotel block. Acorn Blue was the applicant for the planning consent.”
|#1 11/08/2012 13:50||Don commented...|
I ran past the scene that morning and saw all the fire appliances, police and the brave fireman entering and exiting the building. Aside from the risk to people this costs taxpayers a fortune. If you are looking to buy a new Acorn Blue apartment they apear squeaky clean and professional. Hit them where it hurts - either stop giving them planning permission or make sure their reputation gets damaged. Its just money to Acorn.
|#2 27/09/2012 19:26||zoran commented...|