FIREFIGHTERS were yesterday afternoon damping down a bonfire that had already shut a school.

Crews from across Wiltshire had been fighting the smouldering fire at the former South Marston Hotel since Saturday morning.

It is not yet known how the fire, which is burning through demolition waste, began.

The bonfire follows a devastating blaze, believed by police to have been started deliberately, that ripped through the former hotel on July 28.

Teachers at South Marston Primary School, which backs on to the hotel site, were forced to cancel school on Monday over fears that heavy smoke could prove dangerous to their pupils.

Headteacher Luke Maddison wrote on the school’s website on Sunday: “There is some uncertainty over air quality tomorrow in the village."

The school will re-open today.

Swindon Spitfires’ first match of the season on Sunday was cancelled after warnings from a senior fire officer that efforts to break up the fire would cause the acrid smoke to spread.

Bev Maull, club secretary of the Swindon Spitfires, who were due to play Swindon Town LFC’s development side, said: “It was disappointing, but luckily it was only a local game. The referee arrived from Chippenham and I explained the situation to him.”

On Sunday, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service warned residents to keep their windows and doors shut against the smoke.

Last month demolition contractors working on the site were told to stop burning waste as part of “controlled burns.”

A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: “We advised the site owner and contractor to stop burning waste at the site a number of weeks ago and an Abatement Notice is in place as a result.

“Following this the contractor refrained from burning any waste on site.

“If the notice is breached it could result in prosecution, although we are not aware at this stage how this latest fire started.”

South Marston residents spoke of their irritation at living in the path of smoke that had swept over their homes.

Zoe Lewis, 45, said that she had given up cleaning her windows of grime from the smoke.

She said: “It’s been horrible. I’ve had candles burning to get rid of the smell of the smoke.”

Janet Fowler, 64, feared for the future of the historic Victorian mansion at the centre of the hotel site.

“Although it doesn’t have any national importance, it does have local importance,” she said.

A planning application has been submitted for 70 houses on the former Mercure Hotel site. Owner Paul Cripps was approached by the Adver for comment.