Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 12:31 UK

Historic pier destroyed in fire

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Several readers sent in footage of the fire

An historic Lancashire pier has burned down in a fire during the night.

Fire crews were called to the derelict Fleetwood Pier, built in 1910, at about 0430 BST after reports of smoke rising from the roof of the main building.

About 60 firefighters tackled the blaze, which they said was already well alight by the time they arrived. Police said the pier was "completely gutted".

Investigators will look into the fire's cause later but said it was too early to say if it was started deliberately.

A spokeswoman said 10 fire engines, a major incident support unit, a mobile fire station and two aerial ladder platforms had been sent to the scene.

Crews fighting the fire
The pier was opened in 1910. Picture courtesy of Andy Wilson
The fire in the Lancashire resort, just north of Blackpool, is believed to have started near the front of the pier by a former pub and cafe.

Fire crews have been pumping water from a boating lake a mile away to help control the blaze but said the structure had been completely destroyed.

The surrounding roads have been closed off though the fire is now said to be under control.

Cathy Stacey from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said: "Most of the pier has been destroyed - certainly the buildings on it.

"The concrete structure that forms the base of the pier is still intact and the metal supporting beams."

Fire crews said they expected to remain at the scene for the rest of the day.

The fire brigade are spraying water on it but apart from that I think there's not a lot else they can do
Eric Smallman, eye witness

Eric Smallman, owner of the Savoy Hotel opposite the pier, witnessed the blaze.

He said: "Fifty per cent of the pier has actually collapsed - the other 50% is pretty well ablaze.

"The flames are starting to come through what's left of the main building.

"The fire brigade are spraying water on it but apart from that I think there's not a lot else they can do."

He added: "I don't think they're actually attempting to go into the building or anything like that - I think it's just a case of trying to fight the fire from outside."

Sheila Grace, 60, was born in Fleetwood and owns the nearby Sandpipers Hotel on the Esplanade.

Fleetwood Pier on fire
The fire started in the early hours. Picture courtesy of Sharon Bailey

She said it was a sad end for the pier: "I know things have changed, but it was the jewel in Fleetwood's crown, everybody headed there and everybody knew it, and in the last few years it has been just nothing."

Businesswoman Diana Christy, 59, added: "A lot of local residents have been saying that it will go up in smoke for a long time because it's been empty and in disrepair for years.

"This is the last thing that Fleetwood needed right now."

Fleetwood Pier was rebuilt in 1953 after being damaged by a fire in 1952.

The blaze on 25 August 1952 started in the cinema and created an inferno that could be seen from 20 miles away.

The attraction was first built in 1910 - the last to be constructed in the "golden age" of pier building, from 1860 to 1910.

It was built with a promenade deck and 600ft long jetty with an ornate oriental-style pavilion, which opened to the public in 1911.

Crews fighting the fire
All the buildings on the pier are destroyed. Picture by Chris Morton

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.

The pier was sold to a Lancashire businessman for about 500,000 last year.

Mike Simmons, also known as comedian Joey Blower, had promised a new lease of life for the pier by converting it into luxury apartments.

But hundreds of people signed a petition objecting to the plans.

The blaze comes less than six weeks after a fire destroyed the 104-year-old pier in the Somerset resort of Weston-super-Mare in July.




SEE ALSO
Town's anguish at pier's demise
09 Sep 08 |  Lancashire
Your pictures: Fleetwood Pier fire
09 Sep 08 |  In Pictures
Huge fire destroys historic pier
28 Jul 08 |  Somerset
Historic pier under hammer again
19 Jan 07 |  Lancashire
Landmark pier fails to get price
07 Jul 05 |  Lancashire
Landmark pier goes up for auction
05 Jul 05 |  Lancashire
Fleetwood Pier goes up for sale
22 Jun 05 |  Manchester
Dock becomes open-air art gallery
17 Jun 05 |  Merseyside

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