A fire officer investigating a blaze which wrecked the former Four Winds Inn in Falmouth last Tuesday morning have said it was most likely started deliberately.

Justin Sharp, a fire investigation officer based at Falmouth Fire Station, said: "The most likely cause is that a fire was started within the premises deliberately."

However he added that the investigation was still ongoing and he was "unable at this stage to completely rule out an electrical cause."

Mr Sharp said the electrical power to the building was still connected, and noted that intelligence suggests that "the property was used by homeless persons. Children are also reported to have been seen in the area."

He also said that although it was "most likely" the fire was started deliberately, he doesn't know if it was "suspicious" or started maliciously, as opposed to a small fire that grew out of control, perhaps by homeless people trying to keep warm.

While Mr Sharp's investigations suggest that the fire was deliberate, a spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police told the Packet: "We cannot confirm it was arson."

The spokesperson said investigations were "inconclusive," with "insufficient evidence" to say whether it was deliberate or accidental, and "electrical causes cannot be ruled out."

The police spokesperson added: "There were no casualties and no one was thought to be in the building at the time of the incident."

A crowd - many in onesies or pyjamas - gathered on Grenville Road in the early hours of last Tuesday morning to watch the spectacle, which was attended by nearly 50 firefighters from around west Cornwall with five pumping engines and other vehicles.

Although the gas supply had been isolated, there were gas canisters in the building which were considered to be a great risk, meaning the blaze was tackled from the outside.

Mr Sharp said as intelligence suggested there wasn't anyone inside, "it was considered far too dangerous for the crew to enter."

The site is currently subject to a planning application, which is yet to be decided by Cornwall Council.

A council spokesperson said: "There’s no reason why the fire should have any impact upon the planning application. It will not affect the determination process or timescales for making a decision on the application."

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact the police on 101 quoting reference 833 of January 23.