A FIRE that ripped through a derelict hotel in Newquay last week, forcing 30 people from their homes, was "waiting to happen", a neighbour has said.
Lisa Logue, who runs the Lowenva Hotel opposite the dilapidated Cedars Hotel on Mount Wise, said she had often seen people trespassing in the building over the past eight years.
Police have confirmed the blaze last Wednesday was started deliberately and have identified "three to four juveniles" as suspects.
Mrs Logue said: "Luckily there were no fatalities but it's been waiting to happen. There have been squatters and kids in and out all the time, despite the perimeter fencing.
"When it was locked up and closed down there was still food in the fridges and furniture and beds in there with quilts and towels. There was a lot to burn."
Fifty firefighters, six engines, an aerial ladder platform and other vehicles were scrambled to the scene at around 4.30pm.
Mount Wise, a busy road that links both ends of the town, was closed for the rest of the day while firefighters tackled the flames with high-pressure hoses.
Crowds gathered outside a cordon as plumes of smoke enveloped nearby streets, causing 30 neighbours to be evacuated.
The majority stayed with family and friends until they were allowed to return at around 11pm. Nine were given shelter at a temporary 'rest centre' at St Michael's Church.
The fire, classed by police as a 'major incident', is likely to cost taxpayers thousands of pounds. The fire service estimates that a call-out for a single appliance costs around £300.
Cornwall's chief fire officer, Des Tidbury, and the town's community leaders, have been quick to praise the work of the firefighters.
Mr Tidbury said he had watched the incident unfold from the fire service control room before joining staff on the front line.
He said: "I was very pleased to see not only how well the firefighters worked but also the command by officers and how well the equipment worked."
Inspector Dave Meredith, of Newquay police, added: "We should all be thankful that there was no loss of life and no injuries."
Cornwall councillor Geoff Brown said: "I would like to congratulate the fire service for their excellent and determined efforts to bring the blaze under control."
Mrs Logue said running a hotel across the road from the derelict building had been a "nightmare".
She added: "It's just outrageous that the building has been allowed to lie derelict like that.
"I've been here eight years and it's been like that for as long as I can remember.