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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 03:16 GMT
Brighton Pier hit by fire
Fire crews at Palace Pier
The fire started at the far end of the pier
Brighton Pier has had a lucky escape after fire crews managed to stop a large fire from causing major damage.

Seven crews with 50 firefighters from the East and West Sussex brigades were called to the tourist attraction at 1920 GMT on Tuesday.

Dozens of people were moved from the structure and witnesses described seeing massive flames.

A fairground ride was destroyed but the pier is not thought to have suffered any structural damage.

The incident comes only weeks after Brighton's derelict West Pier was badly damaged in storms.

At the height of Tuesday's blaze lifeboats from Brighton and Shoreham stood by as fire crews fought the flames.

Palace Pier
Palace Pier reopened after a fire in 1995
Sussex Police closed Kings Drive and Madeira Drive and warned people to stay away from the area.

By 2300 GMT firefighters had doused the blaze and were damping down the area.

A police spokesman said the fire was picked up by CCTV cameras but the cause was not yet known.

It was hoped the 103-year-old attraction will be open again by Thursday, once safety checks had been completed.

But the ghost train, where the fire started, had been destroyed and two other rides damaged. Some decking has also fallen through.

"From what we can tell, there has been no structural damage to the pier, but clearly we cannot make a thorough check until [Thursday] morning," spokeswoman Clare Wedger said.

Shocking event

A witness on Brighton seafront said the flames could be seen rising above the fair rides at the far end of the pier.

Nikki Inman told BBC News: "Parts of the pier are dropping into the sea."

Eyewitness Peter Johnson said: "I would say the flames were 20 feet or 30 feet high.

"I hope no-one was injured. It was shocking."

Crumbling pier

The fire service said there were no reported casualties.

The pier - which used to be called Palace Pier - was hit by an explosion and fire in August 1995, when a blast ripped through an electricity sub-station below decking at the sea end.

Recently there has been great concern for Brighton's other famous pier, the West Pier, after more of the structure crumbled into the sea.

It has been left to decay since 1975 when it was closed to the public, but the West Pier Trust is determined to go ahead with a 30m plan to renovate it.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Glenda Cooper
"It's the second blow to hit Brighton's seafront"

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See also:

31 Dec 02 | England
29 Dec 02 | England
20 May 02 | England
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