AN HISTORIC hotel has been wrecked by a huge fire which broke out while 170 people were enjoying a 30th birthday party.

All the Swan and Royal Hotel’s guests managed to flee the flames unharmed in Castle Street, Clitheroe.

But four people who were trapped in the second floor living quarters had to be rescued by firefighters and taken to hospital.

The fire tore through the 18th century hotel, wrecking the roof and the interior just before midnight on Saturday.

Forty firefighters spent two hours bringing the blaze under control.

They and the police have launched a joint investigation in a bid to discover the cause. While members of staff believe the fire broke out in a linen room detectives said it was being treated as unexplained.

Forensic experts were unable to enter the building yesterday because it was deemed unsafe.

Bosses of the six-bedroom hotel said their livelihood and home had been ruined.

Tez Joy, whose parents Carol and Terry own the hotel, has told of his family’s ordeal.

Mr Joy, his fiancee Becky Wilkinson and parents were rescued from their living quarters. They were led to safety from a window ledge by a fire engine’s aerial ladder platform.

Mr Joy said they felt lucky to be alive.

He said: “Me and Becky were watching a DVD in my room when I heard my mum screaming and I opened the door and all this black smoke came billowing towards me.

“We all started to panic and began rushing around to try and find a way out.”

The 22-year-old, who had recently completed a fire safety course in Manchester, broke the living room window and closed the doors to keep the smoke out.

“We couldn’t see anything because the smoke was so thick and the door was getting red hot”, he said.

“But then seconds later the fire service were there and we climbed out the window on ladders.

“We could have burnt to death because the flames were flying towards us and we could hear explosions all over the place.”

Mr Joy and his family were taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation and severe shock.

They were released in the early hours of Sunday morning and were given a bed for the night at the Clitheroe Conservative Club opposite the hotel.

Mr Joy said: “My parents have lost everything.

"Their livelihood and their home but I am happy nobody got seriously hurt.

"It could have been a lot worse.”

As well as the hotel guests, the venue was packed with people attending a 30th birthday party in the function room at the back of the building.

James Raybould, from Liverpool who was enjoying a relaxing weekend in the hotel with his wife Christine, said he felt relieved that they had got out in one piece.

“We were just having a drink when we heard all this commotion and the staff told us to leave everything and get out quickly because there was a fire.

“When we got outside people were panicking and we could see huge flames at the back of the hotel.

“I am really sorry for the owners but I am so glad that everybody managed to get out.”

Jim Patrick, crew manager at Clitheroe, said that it was sheer luck that nobody died.

He said: "It took us about an hour and a half before we had the premises completely under control and to makesure that there were no further persons trapped within the premises.

"The hotel has been severely damaged and crews are likely to be there for most of the weekend.

“Some of the staff believe the fire started in the linen room but an investigation is under way into the cause of the fire in conjunction with Lancashire police.”