Fire still a mystery
INVESTIGATORS searching for the cause of a blaze which ripped through a derelict South East Cornwall pub have said they may not get an answer for several days.
At the height of the blaze on Saturday 65 firefighters were battling the flames at the Old Ship Inn at Cawsand.
The fire, which started at about 7.30pm, lit up the sky and left the derelict pub and two holiday cottages wrecked. Villagers tried to tackle the blaze with buckets of water but were beaten back by the heat.
Police and fire chiefs said on Monday that, due to the unsafe structure, the team was "unable to investigate further inside the property".
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"It is unlikely the internal investigation will commence for a couple of days," said a spokesman for Cornwall Fire and Rescue.
He added: "A joint police and fire investigation has commenced, although no conclusions have been reached."
Torpoint fire station manager Derek Hunt was one of the first members of the service on the scene.
He said: "The building was 100 per cent alight when we arrived. Flames were pouring out of the downstairs windows."
The narrow streets presented firefighters with a headache and threatened surrounding homes, and crews tackled the blaze from the hillside above before going into the building.
About a dozen people were evacuated from the closest properties most of which, said Sergeant Ryan Canning from Devon and Cornwall Police, were empty holiday homes.
"It might have been much worse at the height of summer," he said.
Police officers forced their way into five empty properties nearby to allow firefighters to check no one was trapped.
"It was a really dangerous situation because of the geography and the very old buildings, so it was quickly declared a major incident," said Sergeant Canning. "Additional resources were brought in from South East Cornwall and Plymouth."
Cornwall Council, the British Red Cross and the police had put into action their emergency plan but the close-knit village had rallied around and taken care of those displaced, he said.
It is thought 13-year-old Toby Bell and his friend Noah Reece, who live nearby, were first to spot the blaze.
Toby said: "We had just arrived back from sailing and we were the first people to see it.
"There was glass smashed in and you could hear the building groan.
"We ran down to the Halfway House pub and fetched a fire extinguisher to try to put out the blaze."
His father Pete and other neighbours also tried to stem the flames.
Mr Bell said: "I was chucking buckets of water but it went really fast."
His neighbour Simon Ryan said the building had been standing empty for about four years.
Richard Gibbons, Bodmin fire station manager, said the flames had damaged some properties across narrow Garrett Street, where the inn is located.
He said the first crews on the scene "did a fantastic job and worked extremely hard to bring the fire under control.
"It was an extremely dangerous situation."
Sally Butler, who lives a few doors from the Old Ship Inn, said when she arrived on the scene the fire was still on the ground floor and there were flames licking out of the front door.
"We were trying to get buckets of water and a hose to stem the flames.
"People were beaten back by the heat."
She said the police and fire crews were "brilliant".
The fire was brought under control in about two hours, but firefighters stayed on the scene damping down hot spots as parts of the building's roof continued to fall into the street.
Sergeant Canning said: "At the height of the fire, 12 fire engines and a dozen police officers were deployed."
Police and the fire service stayed in Cawsand overnight to ensure safety at the site.
He said an investigation into the cause had begun.
"At this moment we have an open mind about the cause, so we are treating it as a crime scene.
"The residents have been awesome. They have been really kind and accommodating."