This was the dramatic scene as a Blackpool hotel being renovated for the summer season went up in flames.
Firefighters have been working through the night after the huge blaze engulfed the Howard’s Crest Hotel, on the Promenade, yesterday afternoon.
The Prom came to a standstill as police and fire crews were called to the hotel in South Shore, near to Yates’s pub, at around 1.40pm.
Flames could be seen leaping from the roof of the hotel as black smoke billowed from the building.
As more than 60 firefighters battled the blaze, hoteliers near to the site were told to leave their premises.
The cause of the fire is still not known, and police have not ruled out arson.
Pauline Entwistle, who owns the Allandale Hotel next to Howard’s Crest, described how she stood and watched in horror as the fire spread to her building.
“Words cannot describe how it feels to see your own hotel catch fire,” she said.
“We’ve just spent about £10,000 making the front rooms ready for the new season, and that will all have been wrecked. It’s devastating.”
Mrs Entwistle has owned the Allandale for 30 years, and said just the night before her hotel’s sign had been ripped from the building in stormy winds which battered the resort.
“I’ve never known anything like it,” she added.
The Howard’s Crest is clad in scaffolding, and neighbours say renovation work has been going on inside for the last six months.
It is believed workmen were checking the building for wind damage when the fire started.
A spokesman from Lancashire Fire and Rescue said the blaze started in the roof space and spread through the rest of the building.
At its peak, 12 fire engines were called to tackle the flames, which took more than two hours to bring under control. Three crews stayed overnight at the scene.
The full extent of the damage is not known as fire crews have yet to get inside the properties.
Insp Matt Wilmot, from South Shore Police Station, said officers evacuated people from nearby hotels due to fears for their safety.
They were directed to the Queens Hotel, further along the Prom, which opened up to offer hot drinks to those affected.
Joan McKenzie owns the Cornhill Hotel, just four doors away from the burned building.
She said: “I smelled smoke and I thought I had left something on. The next thing the police were knocking on the door telling us to leave.
“From then on it was just police everywhere.”
Mrs McKenzie, 67, has owned the Cornhill with her husband, Roger, since 1986, and said she watched as the fire spread to the Allandale.
“I was really worried about our hotel,” she added.
“It’s only fortunate we don’t have any guests in.”
Paul Wilkinson, 44, who has been living at the former Renart Hotel for six months, said: “It would only have taken the wind to change direction and it could have spread the other way, towards our hotel – it was quite scary.”
Marie McLean, a hotelier from Osborne Road, South Shore, said: “We were walking along the Promenade when we saw the flames. The workmen were working on the hotel and suddenly they just scattered and started moving their vehicles really quickly.
“There was a lot of smoke and the wind just took it and there were flames everywhere.”
Natalie Barks from Layton was driving down Lytham Road with Chris Wright when she saw the fire.
She said: “Bolton Street, which is the street behind the hotel, was so black with smoke you could not see down it.
“The flames spread all across the top of the hotel and the whole of the dormer at the top has gone.”
Ian Lang and his sister Denise, saw the flames from their home on Shaw Road.
Denise said: “I could see the flames from my bedroom window and they were really high. It was scary.”
*Pictures by Alex Dickinson and Bill Johnson.