Bideford Tantons Hotel fire: Owners fined

Tantons Hotel, Bideford
Image caption Three guests were rescued from the roof of the hotel

The owners of hotel in north Devon who admitted health and safety breaches after it caught fire have been fined £40,000 and told to pay £10,000 costs.

More than 50 guests fled from the Tantons Hotel in Bideford after the fire was started deliberately in a room on the top floor in May 2011.

Three guests and one member of staff had to be rescued from the roof.

Chescombe Limited, which was sentenced at Exeter Crown Court, admitted five fire safety breaches previously.

Safety 'lamentable'

Sixty firefighters and 11 fire engines were called to tackle the blaze after it broke out at about 04:00 BST on 31 May after an arson attack by a guest.

The fire was so intense it burned through floors and ceilings.

The unconnected safety breaches were discovered during an investigation.

Prosecuting on behalf of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, Nigel Wraith told the court that the hotel's fire alarm did not work properly and there were not enough smoke detectors.

Image caption Oil for cooking and the hotel's lift was stored in an emergency exit area

He added that some fire doors were so sub-standard they did not prevent a fire spreading, and one emergency exit door was so stiff that it took one man three or four shoulder barges to open it.

Photographs taken by investigators also showed cans of cooking oil and oil for the hotel's lift stored in an emergency exit area, and some smoke detectors having been taped up.

The court was told that one guest had heard a short alarm but was told by staff there was nothing to worry about and he was allowed back to his room to sleep.

Kanti Singh, managing director of Chescombe Ltd, had been warned about the problems four years before the fire, the court heard.

The company admitted the offences during a previous hearing before magistrates in Barnstaple, who referred the case to crown court for sentencing.

Sentencing at Exeter Crown Court, the judge said the hotel's safety had been "lamentable".

He said that all hotel owners had a duty of care and that the fines could have totalled £175,000 had the company been in a stronger financial position.

The court heard that a man had admitted arson and would appear in court at a later date.

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