Budleigh firefighters’ river role in hotel fire blaze

River Sid plays vital role in Fortfield Hotel fire quench

A MAJOR role was played by Budleigh Salterton firefighters during last Thursday’s blaze at Sidmouth’s Fortfield Hotel.

They were tasked to man generators to pump water from the River Sid at the end of the Esplanade, so an aerial platform hose had enough pressure to fight the fourth floor fire from above.

As Sidmouth fire crews helped dam The Brook near the Fortfield end of town, to provide a second supply for the Taunton aerial appliance, Budleigh firefighters Ian Williams and Tom Bishop kept a watchful eye on water being pumped from the river.

Watch commander Robin Hammett from Seaton brigade ran the operation, which saw at the height of the blaze some 400-500 gallons of water being pumped from the Sid into wide circumference hoses which stretched a mile along the Esplanade to the fire crews at the derelict hotel site.

“The river water level dropped two feet,” said Robin, as relay pumps along the seafront ensured the water was kept up to pressure en route to the fire.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service group manager Adge Tilke commanded the operation, which involved some 80 fire fighters from Sidmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Exmouth, Topsham, Ottery St Mary and others from East, Mid Devon and Somerset.

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He, a scenes of crime police officer and district council building inspector, entered the hotel on Friday morning to begin investigations into how the fire started.

A fire at the hotel, which has been empty and derelict for some six years, was a nightmare scenario for fire and police chiefs.

When fire broke out on the top floor of the hotel’s wing, just after 4pm on Thursday, Mr Tilke put into action a plan he formulated to tackle the blaze from outside.