UK & World News

  • 31 July 2014, 8:35

Eastbourne Pier Blaze Investigation Under Way

Fire investigators were due to return to Eastbourne Pier this morning in a bid to find out what started a blaze that ripped through the historic landmark.

A large part of the 144-year-old Grade II-listed structure was reduced to a skeleton after plumes of smoke rose high into the sky above the resort on Wednesday.

The blaze started at about 3pm in an amusement arcade.

Up to 80 firefighters attended, pumping water on to the burning structure from the coast, the beach and from underneath.

The RNLI said lifeboats from Eastbourne, Hastings and Newhaven were also sent to help firefighters tackle the fire.

It was eventually brought under control shortly before 8pm and around 30 firefighters stayed at the scene overnight, the fire service said.

Sussex Police said the fire was not believed to be suspicious "at this time" and a councillor said it may have been started by an electrical fault.

David Tutt, leader of Eastbourne Council, said it appeared firefighters had managed to save two thirds of the structure.

He said: "Our understanding is the fire appears to have started in wall panelling which would lead you to believe it was electrical.

"We are offering whatever help we can to the owners if there are weddings booked and so on, to find new locations, so nobody is disappointed."

The blaze came at the height of the all-important summer tourist season for the resort.

Chief Fire Officer Des Prichard said: "Our firefighters have worked very hard in difficult conditions to stop the fire from spreading.

"Sadly one building on the pier is now a shell and other smaller buildings have been damaged but the remaining buildings on the pier are being protected.

"This couldn't have been achieved without the assistance of a number of other organisations."

The Government's fire minister Penny Mordaunt said she planned to meet residents and community leaders in Eastbourne "as a priority" following the blaze.

Eastbourne is due to host its biggest tourist event, the annual Airbourne air show, on the seafront in a fortnight.

Before the fire, the pier had a large number of attractions including an arcade, cafe bar, tea rooms and Atlantis nightclub.

Eastbourne is just the latest in a series of Victorian piers to suffer major fire damage.

In 2003, the 148-year-old West Pier in Brighton was reduced to a mangled mass of metal by two major blazes within two months.

And in Eastbourne's neighbouring town of Hastings, the Grade II-listed pier was almost destroyed in a fire in 2010 following years of neglect.

Southend Pier in Essex was badly damaged by fire in 2005 and Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare was badly damaged by a blaze in 2008.

Tim Wardley, chairman of the National Piers Society, said: "Piers are at risk of ? suffering fire damage - they are constantly under onslaught from Mother Nature.

"That's a testament to the 61 which survive proudly after withstanding that onslaught over the last two centuries."