Eastbourne Pier fire: Can the Victorian landmark ever be restored?

Fire crews claim to have saved ‘a great deal’ of the Victorian structure

Fire crews said on Thursday they have saved “a great deal” of Eastbourne Pier, after a fire that lasted hours ripped through the 144-year-old Victorian structure.

The blaze – believed to have been started behind some wood panelling in the arcade – began on Wednesday afternoon and destroyed the pier’s roof. No injuries were reported and Sussex Police are not treading the fire as suspicious.

As of 9:45am on Thursday around 20 firefighters remained at the scene “damping down and cutting away” to ensure all hot spots were dealt with, and to ensure no chance of re-ignition, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said.

But Eastbourne Borough Council leader David Tutt said he was hopeful the pier could be repaired. He is expected to be having meetings on Thursday in order to assess the damage and see how the council can “move forward”.

 

Eastbourne Pier has a nightclub and is a popular wedding venue, in addition to being known for the arcade. Mr Tutt said: “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.”

Eastbourne Borough Council said senior decision makers will meet on Thursday to discuss the response to the fire and “immediate next steps”. The council thanked the emergency services, particularly East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, for their “outstanding” work in tackling the fire.

“It is thanks to their bravery and professionalism that there was not more extensive damage to the pier,” it said in a statement.

What appears to be left of the pier is a shell of the structure’s largest dome, close to the shore, with a number of buildings badly damaged, while an investigation into the blaze is underway, a fire service spokesperson told the BBC.  

Despite the leaping flames and great plumes of smoke that were seen engulfing the pier during the blaze, chief fire officer Des Pritchard of the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service told the BBC that “there’s a great deal that’s still there”.

He said the outgoing tide and low water pressure had hampered crews, who were still dousing spots of fire overnight, but that their hard work had “paid off”.

“Pier fires are notoriously difficult to fight because there is one way on and one way off – and the tide can cause additional problems.

“The hard work of our firefighters has paid off in that we have been able to save a section of this iconic landmark but I know for the people of Eastbourne, this will still be devastating.”

Around 60 firefighters had arrived at the scene by 3pm, including personnel from neighbouring towns, but the severity of the blaze saw crews rise to around 80 people by 6:30pm.

“The good news is that we don’t have a Brighton or Hastings scenario where the whole pier is destroyed,” Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd said.

Brighton’s West Pier burned down in 2003 and the structure’s shell can still be seen looming out of the water between Brighton and Hove. In February this year, storms in the UK destroyed yet more of the pier, with the former pavilion split into two sections after part of it collapsed into the sea under the strength of 70mph winds.

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