Racing driver and pub landlord Ben Devlin puts out wedding marquee fire which could have destroyed couple’s big day

Landlord of the Ox and Plough at Old Buckenham, Ben Devlin, who put out a fire at a wedding marquee.

Landlord of the Ox and Plough at Old Buckenham, Ben Devlin, who put out a fire at a wedding marquee. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Of the things that can go wrong on the day of renewing your wedding vows, your venue going up in the flames the night before has got to be one of the unluckiest.

Ben Devlin racing a Lotus Sport Elise at Brands Hatch. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

Ben Devlin racing a Lotus Sport Elise at Brands Hatch. Picture: SIMON FINLAY - Credit: EDP � 2000

But thankfully, a happy couple were still able to say 'I do' after a pub landlord put out a dramatic blaze which almost caused their wedding plans to go up in smoke.

The pair were preparing for a reception at a marquee on The Green, Old Buckenham after a service at a nearby church when arsonists set alight to the 120ft-long structure the night before.

Ben Devlin, landlord at the nearby Ox and Plough – better known to many motorsport fans for his sportscar racing in the United States – was preparing to go to sleep when his partner noticed a bright light coming from the window.

With flames spreading to the roof of the marquee and white smoke billowing from the site, the 35-year-old quickly put some clothes on, grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran outside to fight the blaze.

Ben Devlin racing a Lotus Sport Elise at Brands Hatch. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

Ben Devlin racing a Lotus Sport Elise at Brands Hatch. Picture: SIMON FINLAY - Credit: EDP � 2000


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As he rushed to the scene of the fire, he called the fire brigade on his mobile phone.

'They said: 'Slow down, tell me what's happening,' but I said I didn't have time – I just wanted to put the fire out,' said Mr Devlin, who competed in the America LeMans Series for many years and has raced at legendary circuits such as Daytona and Watkins Glen.

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'I was in bed when my partner said: 'What's that bright light?'

'We opened the curtains and saw the glow. It was a fright and a horror to see that.

Landlord of the Ox and Plough at Old Buckenham, Ben Devlin, who put out a fire at a wedding marquee.

Landlord of the Ox and Plough at Old Buckenham, Ben Devlin, who put out a fire at a wedding marquee. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

'The flames had reached the roof of the marquee. It was just real thick, white smoke.

'I just found the base of the fire, pointed the fire extinguisher there and hoped for the best.'

Mr Devlin quickly used up the first fire extinguisher, so his partner Kirsty Richards brought out more so he could continue to fight the flames.

Fire engines from Wymondham and East Harling attended the blaze but Mr Devlin had already put it out by the time they arrived, using three fire extinguishers.

Landlord of the Ox and Plough at Old Buckenham, Ben Devlin, who put out a fire at a wedding marquee.

Landlord of the Ox and Plough at Old Buckenham, Ben Devlin, who put out a fire at a wedding marquee. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Workers at the Ox and Plough were then faced with a rush to repair the damaged marquee and replace burnt chairs and table cloths ahead of the happy couple's arrival.

'The fire was put out and the wedding went ahead, thank goodness,' Mr Devlin said.

'The team and everyone here worked hard to put everything together.'

Police are now trying to trace those responsible, who moved chairs inside the marquee in an apparent bid to help the fire spread.

Mr Devlin – who currently races in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship – branded the culprits as 'cowards' and added: 'It's just sad that people would do something like that.

'The thought of spoiling someone's big day – what would entice someone to do that?'

Police confirmed that they are investigating the incident - which happened at around 12.30am on Saturday, July 29 - as arson and that their enquiries are ongoing.

Anyone with information should contact Norfolk Police on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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