FIRE crews were expected to return the flame-stricken Randolph Hotel to management today after spending the weekend making the building safe.

Friday’s fire is thought to have been caused when flames from flambé cooking were sucked up by an extractor fan in the 19th century building’s ground floor kitchen.

The fire then spread through ducts and up the back of the building, before setting the roof and front gable ablaze.

But firefighters were praised for quick and decisive actions that were said to have saved the Oxford institution from ruin.

Despite the blaze requiring 14 fire engines and more than 70 firefighters, there were no serious injuries among the 80 guests and hotel staff evacuated.

Oxfordshire County Council deputy leader Rodney Rose said: “Yet again our firefighters have responded magnificently, this time to a very high profile incident at one of Oxford’s most well-known hotels.

“My thanks go to them, county council staff and Thames Valley Police and South Central Ambulance Service.”

Today maintenance staff and structural engineers were due to begin a complex clean-up operation.

Bosses at Oxford City Council will meet management to see what assistance they could offer.

Morse – was said to be worst in the “back of house”, the area not used by customers.

The blaze on Friday evening was reported to the fire service at 4.46pm, when smoke was spotted at the back of the building.

Soon afterwards thick, black smoke billowed from the roof and flames could be seen bursting from the front gable.

Staff were credited with evacuating the hotel quickly. People in adjoining buildings were moved to safety by police.

Fire service area manager Pete Cleary said the damage was limited to certain areas of the hotel because of actions taken by firefighters as well as fire doors in the hotel.

Since the blaze was brought under control, crews have swept the hotel to check for hot spots and structural instability.

Mr Cleary said: “My understanding from investigators is that staff were flambé cooking in the kitchen and the flames went up through the extractor fan.

“From the outside it would have looked like the whole hotel was on fire, because the flames were at the ground floor and the roof.

“But actually, from the kitchen, the flames travelled through the ducting and up the outside wall rapidly and on to the roof without affecting much of the hotel inside.

“The fire doors kept the fire in boxes, rather than letting it spread, so it was a perfect example of why we tell businesses to keep them closed.”

Firefighters reached the back of the hotel by laying hose pipes through the neighbouring Odeon cinema in Magdalen Street and gaining access to its roof, he added.

“At the moment there is still some structural instability in the hotel and so they will need to get some scaffolding up to make it safe.

“It will need a bit of work to recover, but we are proud that crews managed to save the building.”