Fire sweeps another seaside pier

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Firefighters have been called to tackle a "serious" blaze on Fleetwood pier, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said.

A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue said the blaze began near a derelict pub and cafe, but it was too early to say if the fire was started maliciously.

He said: "At 4.30am a phone call was made to the control room from a member of the public saying smoke was coming from the pier.

"Eight fire engines went out and on arrival a further two engines were sent to pump water from a boating lake one mile away to help extinguish the fire. Sixty firefighters are at the scene along with two aerial ladder platforms.

"When they got there it was well alight and structurally it has been destroyed. It was a derelict pier with nothing in use at the time.

"It was suspected the fire started at the front near where the pub and cafe are.

"How it started we don't know yet.

"Police and fire investigators are at the scene at the moment, but it is too early to say if it was arson. The pier is still alight at the moment but it is under control.

"Nobody is reported missing or injured."

Eric Smallman, 43, who owns the Savoy hotel 75 yards from the pier, said it had been feared "something like this would happen".

He said: "We have had a bit of trouble recently with kids breaking into it and causing mischief really.

"Lots of local residents were concerned something like this would happen. It was boarded up in the last few days and I have heard this morning kids were in there last night.

"It sounds like they were messing around and inadvertently started the fire. It hasn't been a nice pier to look at and needed something doing with it.

"It would have been nice to bring it back to use."

This morning, the historic pier had been reduced to a smouldering mass of twisted metal.

A convoy of fire engines lined the promenade as firefighters using high-level cranes pumped water on to the top of the flames, as crews on the ground used hoses to attack the base of the blaze.

The flames occasionally reared up as gusts of wind buffeted the smoking structure on the shoreline.

Dozens of locals stood in the rain watching smoke billow into the air from the landmark.

There was a major fire at the pier in Fleetwood in 1952. The blaze in August that year started in the cinema and created an inferno that could be seen from 20 miles away. Rebuilding work began almost immediately.

Discussions about building the pier seem to have begun in the 1890s, but the Fleetwood Victoria Pier Company was not formed until 1906, when the pier was built.

The attraction was the last to be constructed in the 'golden age' of pier building, which was from 1860 to 1910.

It was built with a promenade deck and jetty 600ft long with an ornate pavilion of oriental appearance at the shoreward end, and was opened to the public in 1911, with a small cinema being added in 1942.

The pier continued to remain profitable throughout the declining years of the seaside resort, even receiving a £70,000 facelift in 1972.

But in recent years it has gone through changes of ownership and uncertainty over its future. Last year there was a row over plans to build apartments on the structure.

Hundreds of people signed a petition objecting to a housing development.

Today's devastation follows a blaze on 28 July which destroyed most of the 104-year-old Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare.

Its owners Kerry and Michelle Michael vowed to restore the Grade II listed structure in Somerset to its former glory.

The pavilion in Weston was destroyed in just over 90 minutes although a walkway near to the road survived and was reopened to the public days later.