More than 120 young farmers were forced to take shelter after a large-scale fire was deliberately started in a Torquay hotel.
The blaze started shortly after midnight on Saturday - on the penultimate evening of the NFYFC’s annual convention in Torquay.
Ten local emergency service crews attended the scene at the Bancourt Hotel, Avenue Road, when its basement bar shot up in flames after what police called a ‘deliberate ignition’.
Devon and Cornwall Police are in initial stages of investigation but said they are not attributing the cause of the fire to the Young Farmers.
All guests were evacuated and the Young Farmers staying in the hotel were transferred to the Riviera Centre, where they spent the night without their belongings, which remained in the hotel.
The incident is being treated as arson with intent to endanger life.
Detective Sergeant Andy Penhaligon from Torquay CID, said: “We are treating this incident as arson. Fortunately there were only three minor injuries but this reckless and purposeful action could have had far more serious, even fatal, consequences.
“Further enquiries are continuing to establish the exact circumstances of the fire and we are appealing to anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity or individual in or around the hotel at the time of the offence to contact us.”
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A Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue spokesman added: “Significant damage was caused to the bar area and the remainder of the building was affected by smoke.”
Crews used 16 breathing apparatus sets, three hose reel jets and two attack jets to fully extinguish the fire around 04.00 am.
Everyone was accounted for and there were no injuries.
The Torquay emergency response team worked to accommodate the Young Farmers.
An NFYFC spokesman said: “Around 120 of our members from Brecknock YFC and Radnor YFC who were guests at the hotel were affected and we are delighted to say that all have been accounted for and are safe and well.
“We have been working closely with all relevant authorities to ensure the safety and comfort of our members and are grateful to Torbay Council and the Riviera International Centre for their support in giving our members overnight shelter.”
Retiring NFYFC president Poul Christensen also paid tribute to everyone who helped during the incident and throughout the night.
He said he was glad to see everyone still in good spirits.
Anyone who wishes to contact the NFYFC temporary incident telephone line about an affected friend or family member at the convention can call 07495 903 430.
Alternatively, anyone who has information to assist the investigation is asked to contact police on email@example.com or by phone on 101, quoting crime reference CR/030215/17.