Firefighters remain at Eastbourne Pier fire scene

Eastbourne Pier fire Image copyright AFP
Image caption About 30 firefighters stayed at the scene of the blaze overnight

Firefighters have spent the night at the scene of a devastating fire that destroyed part of Eastbourne Pier.

About 80 firefighters tackled the blaze which ripped through the main building on the structure on Wednesday evening leaving only a metal skeleton.

No-one was injured in the fire which police are not treating as suspicious.

Fire minister Penny Mordaunt said she would be visiting Eastbourne "as a priority" to speak to local people and thank firefighters for their efforts.

The blaze broke out behind some wood panelling in the arcade building and billowing smoke filled the air.

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Media captionThe BBC's Laura Trant says the main building's structure is "crudely exposed"

The fire service said the incident was being scaled down and 30 firefighters were expected to stay at the scene overnight.

Ms Mordaunt commented: "It is heart-breaking to see such a wonderful Victorian pier so damaged. Thankfully no-one appears to have been hurt."

Eastbourne Borough Council leader David Tutt said he was hopeful the pier could be repaired, and he understood the fire had been started by an electrical fault.

Des Pritchard, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service chief fire officer, said: "Our firefighters have saved a huge amount of the pier - there's a great deal that's still there.

"It is very sad but pier fires are very difficult to fight and many result in the complete loss of the pier."

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Media captionAerial footage showed the extent of the blaze on Wednesday

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd said it appeared that the pier had been saved from being entirely consumed.

"The good news is that we don't have a Brighton or Hastings scenario where the whole pier is destroyed," he said.

Pier fires

  • The Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare was damaged by fires in 1930 and 2008
  • Hastings Pier was almost destroyed by a fire on 5 October 2010
  • West Pier in Brighton burned down in 2003
  • The Indian Pavilion on Blackpool's North Pier was destroyed by fire in 1921
  • South Parade Pier in Southsea was destroyed by a blaze in 1904
  • Another fire in 1974 meant the pier needed rebuilding for a second time

Airbourne, one of Eastbourne's biggest events, is due to take place on the seafront between 14 and 17 August.

The pier was built in the 1870s and, according to the Piers Society, previously had a theatre and a "camera obscura" built on it.

Today, a number of cafes, bars and a nightclub are situated along the pier.

It has featured in films and television programmes including the Michael Caine movie Last Orders and Brit flick Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.

Hastings Pier was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 2010 and West Pier in Brighton burned down in 2003.

The BBC's Sarah Bell: My Eastbourne

As someone raised on the sunshine coast, seeing the pier in flames has left me feeling deeply sad and unsettled.

The symbol of the town, its Victorian structure was the constant backdrop to my childhood of chilly dips in the sea.

It even played a part in the social structure of teenage years - with the beaches either side reserved for the coolest kids.

Later it was where we would drink local cider and snog boys, in the years before nights out involved tottering up to the nightclub at the end.

Within an hour of the news my Facebook feed was filled with local friends expressing sadness and shock that a key part part of the town's history could be so easily destroyed.

I just hope that it can be restored and not suffer the fate of the structures in neighbouring towns.

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