Sussex

Teenagers bailed in Hastings Pier fire investigation

Hastings Pier after the fire
Image caption The fire began with a series of blasts and engulfed the pier, destroying the structure

Two teenagers who were arrested on suspicion of arson after a huge fire on Hastings Pier have been bailed.

Firefighters also remain at the scene tackling pockets of fire more than 24 hours after the blaze started at the derelict structure in East Sussex.

Up to 95% of the pier has been destroyed and Hastings council has warned that the structure is at risk of collapsing into the sea.

It urged people to keep away from the pier, which is in a dangerous state.

Bexhill and Battle fire station commander Mark Webb said firefighters were working with a structural engineer to tackle remaining pockets of fire from underneath the pier.

"When the tide's going out we're tackling the fire from underneath, but one of the risks we've got to be very mindful of is the fact that the structure is still unstable.

"We're working outside a safety perimeter in order to make sure our crews don't get put at risk by falling debris."

He said the pockets of fire that were still burning were mainly between the pier's timber decking and the steel supports.

"There are small pockets and we're trying to do all we can to get to those pockets and extinguish them. We're chasing the tide out every time it turns."

A member of the public alerted police officers on patrol to a fire on the pier in the early hours of Tuesday.

Nearby residents also reported hearing a series of explosions.

Within a short time, the entire structure was engulfed in flames.

Emergency crews described seeing a plume of thick, acrid smoke and the ballroom reduced to a burning framework, with bits falling into the sea.

At the height of the blaze, about 50 firefighters were at the scene.

The fire was brought under control by 0800 BST on Tuesday, with no reports of any injuries, but the pier continued to smoulder.

Two men, aged 18 and 19 and from St Leonards, were arrested and detained for questioning as crews fought the flames on the pier.

A spokesman for Sussex Police confirmed early on Wednesday that both teenagers had been bailed.

Road closures remained in place on Wednesday morning around the A259 area.

Hastings Borough Council issued a statement warning people of the dangers of visiting the pier.

"The pier remains in a very dangerous state and people are advised to stay well away from it as the risk of collapse is high.

"Under no circumstances should people attempt to gain access under the pier at this time."

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Media captionFootage sent to the BBC shows the pier ablaze

Campaigners for the restoration of the pier have said they still hope it can be salvaged.

Earlier this year, the council agreed to buy the pier with a compulsory purchase order and hand it to the Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust.

Jess Steele, the trust's treasurer, said: "This tragedy has further galvanized public support for securing the future of this much-loved pier.

"If the survey shows that the substructure is reusable we will do our utmost to bring this great asset back to life."

The pier, which opened in 1872, was originally 910ft (280m) long. It closed in 2006 because of fears it had become unsafe.

It was owned by Panamanian-registered company Ravenclaw, which the council said it had been unable to contact.

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