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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 15:59 GMT
Pier re-opens after fire
Burnt out fairgournd ride on Brighton Pier
The ghost train ride was destroyed in the fire
Brighton Pier has re-opened to the public apart from the areas affected by a fire on Tuesday night.

Inspectors have been checking whether there is any lasting damage to the Victorian pier.

Flames which leapt 30 feet into the air burnt a hole through the decking of the famous pier, prompting fears the structure of the 103-year-old attraction may have been weakened.

A total of 50 firefighters from the East and West Sussex brigades were called to the tourist attraction at 1920 GMT on Tuesday.

Palace Pier
Palace Pier reopened after a fire in 1995

Firefighters were then called back to the pier at 0230 GMT on Wednesday when a secondary fire broke out which was quickly put out.

The fire started in the funfair area in the end of the pier, which is owned by Noble Amusements Ltd.

Dozens of staff and members of the public were moved from the structure although no-one was injured.

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

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

Sussex Police closed Kings Drive and Madeira Drive and warned people to stay away from the area.

Huge rocket

But the ghost train, where the fire started, has been destroyed and two other rides damaged.

A witness described the fire as "spectacular".

Melita Dennett, from Hove, said: "At first I thought it was a huge bonfire on the beach but when I saw all the fire engines I realised there was something wrong.

"As I got closer I could see the fire was close to the helter skelter ride. It was silhouetted against the flames and looked like a huge rocket."

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

Crumbling pier

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

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.

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 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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