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First day on the job goes up in smoke

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A fire which ravaged a £5m Georgian mansion was likely caused by an unfortunate meeting between a plumbing apprentice bearing a blow torch and polystyrene roof installation, The Daily Mail reports.

More than 60 firemen fought the blaze at Kittery Court, in Kingswear, Devon - owned by "Forever Friends" greeting cards millionaire Andrew Brownsword. The house was undergoing a £2m conversion into a luxury hotel when disaster struck on Monday.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service's John Howes explained: "It appears at this stage that this was an unfortunate plumber who was soldering in the roof space of a large building, which was undergoing total renovation. For reasons we don't yet know, the fire has flashed up quickly and gone through the whole of a brand new and very expensive roof.

"Our initial investigations indicate that it was not his fault the flames spread so quickly. We think a blowtorch may have set light to expanded polystyrene foam in the roof space."

Contractors at the site apparently tried to conceal the identity of the culprit, but a neighbour reported: "I heard it was started by a teenager on his first day. You have to feel sorry for the poor lad. He must feel terrible."

The unfortunate rookie is described as "very upset". Brownsword is likewise "heartbroken" and "devastated", a spokesman confirmed, but is also "sure there was no malice involved".

The Daily Mail has pics of the inferno here. ®

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