NEIGHBOURS were forced to flee after 15ft flames tore through a five-storey Blackpool hotel.
Around 75 firefighters were drafted in to tackle the huge flames which spread across each of the five floors of The Astoria Guest House, on Albert Road, yesterday.
Firefighters, who feared people were trapped inside the building, said they were faced with dangerous conditions as flames up to 15ft high leapt out of a window and burnt through the floorboards.
A search revealed no-one was inside the building but a dog, belonging to the hotel owners, died in the fire, which started shortly after 6pm yesterday.
Paul Briggs, station manager at Blackpool fire station, said: “It was treacherous inside. The fire had started on the first floor and spread through the floors ripping out floorboards, meaning crews had to use thermal imaging cameras to safely move around what was a complex building.”
Fire investigators were due to return to the scene today to determine the cause of the blaze, but it is thought to have broken out in the laundry room in the private accommodation area of the hotel.
Hoteliers on the street today said they were saddened to see their neighbours’ livelihood burning away right before their eyes.
Denise Rendall, owner of The Albert Hotel opposite The Astoria, said: “We were devastated to see what’s happened. These are our friends and they’ve lost their livelihood. We had been out and arrived home to see it, we’re just shocked. I heard the flames were huge.”
Owners and residents in adjacent hotels, The Southview, The Avon, and Malibu, were advised to evacuate their properties as the first two fire engines arrived on scene.
Fire crews said flames were high at the rear of the property, destroying much of the interior of the building and even a section of the roof.
A further 12 fire engines, an aerial platform ladder and mobile fire station were called out within minutes, and paramedics were put on standby as police cordoned off the town centre street around the vicinity of the hotel.
Sixteen firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the building to check all the rooms before moving to the top of the building to remove a potentially hazardous propane cylinder as the flames rose through the hotel through central heating vents.
David Bent, area manager for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The fire had spread through vents making it difficult to know the location of the source. There was extremely poor visibility, high levels of smoke and high temperatures inside.”
Nearby hoteliers said the owners of the hotel, a man and a woman, had been out for the evening and returned to find the scene of devastation.
Chris Moorhouse, owner of The Avon Hotel, said: “We could smell smoke from our property, it wasn’t setting our alarms off but it was enough to make us go outside and see.”
Incident Commander Ben Norman said firefighters were faced with a substantial fire which was quickly spreading through the property. A quantity of towels and bedding in a first floor room had fuelled the flames. He said: “We arrived on scene to meet the occupants who were out of the property.
“The fire had spread down into the basement and through the first and second floors. Some of the rooms were severely damaged and all were smoke logged. Sadly a dog was in the hotel and has perished.”
A total of 14 fire engines, including two each from Blackpool, Fleetwood, St Annes and Blackburn fire stations and one each from South Shore, Bispham, Wesham, Lytham, Preesall, Bamber Bridge and Penwortham, attended the scene.
The blaze was completely out by around 9.45pm but firefighters continued to work through the night to establish the cause of the fire.
The cordon on the street was lifted by 10.30pm.
Guests from the surrounding hotels were put up by other hoteliers.