The venue for the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) Annual Convention caught fire in the UK over the weekend. British police, suspecting an arson attack, are appealing for witnesses to come forward.

The fire broke out in the basement of the Bancourt Hotel in Torquay, shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, April 23. Approximately 80 guests, who had been attending the convention, were evacuated from the premises straight away. Everyone, who was in the hotel on the night, has been accounted for.

An investigation is underway with police treating the fire as “arson with intent to endanger life”.

Three people were taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries. The fire was dealt with by numerous crews, including ten fire engines that were sent to the area, according to Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. The fire was extinguished by 4am.

“Significant” damage has been done to the bar area of the hotel, in addition to severe smoke damage throughout the premises.

All of the hotel’s guests, reportedly over 100 people in total, were given overnight accommodation at the Riviera International Conference Centre after the evacuation.

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.

“I would pay credit to the firefighters and police officers, plus the hotel owners and staff, whose swift actions and partnership work ensured the safety of guests and members of the public, as well as the local community, Torbay Council and Street Pastors who provided tremendous support to the evacuated guests.”

Heather Black from the NFYFC said: “We were immediately able to move into action to find those young people, some of whom were in the centre with us and some which were across the town.

We were very pleased to be able to find them all very quickly. We had great help from local services to do that.