A MASSIVE team effort helped more than 100 members on Saturday night after a suspected arson attack ignited in the Torquay hotel they were staying in.
Most members were at the Fancy Dress evening at the Riviera Centre when the incident happened but were unable to return to the Barncourt Hotel, where emergency services had evacuated guests from the fire which is thought to have been started in the basement bar.
Members from Brecknock and Radnor Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs were stranded in the early hours of Sunday morning after the incident at the central hotel.
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Fortunately no one was seriously injured in the incident and NFYFC, YFC members, the local authorities and the Riviera Centre quickly pulled together to find alternative accommodation for the night and ensure everyone was accounted for.
Heather Black, NFYFC’s chairman of the board of management, said: “We are pleased to say all our YFC members and the hotel staff are safe and well.
"The Riviera Centre has been brilliant in letting our members stay over in the centre last night and providing refreshments for them. Torbay Council provided emergency supplies so everyone had a sleeping bag and Arley Medical Services have been supporting members.”
County staff, fellow YFC members and NFYFC staff worked tirelessly throughout the night with the local authorities to ensure families were informed and to make information widely available.
Heather added: “Thanks to the support and generosity of local hotels, all of the YFC members affected have been allocated accommodation for tonight. Local hotels also provided extra towels for the YFC members staying at the Riviera Centre over night, which was much appreciated.
“Primark in Torquay also kindly opened its doors early so that new clothes could be purchased for the YFC members who were without their belongings – some of whom were still in fancy dress from the Princes and Princesses party at the Riviera Centre. It has been a real team effort between the Torquay community and YFC.”
The incident is being treated as arson with intent to endanger life and Police remain on scene with fire investigators to carry out further enquiries.
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.”
NFYFC has set up an incident telephone line for anyone who is concerned about a family member who is at convention. Call 07495 903 430 for more details.