Page last updated at 08:03 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 09:03 UK

Inquiry into cause of pier fire

The fire on the pier - picture by Penny Broomhall
The fire on the pier - picture by Penny Broomhall

Fire crews are hoping to venture inside the burned-out skeleton of Weston-super-Mare's Grand Pier to start searching for the cause of the blaze.

The pier which was first built in 1904 was destroyed on Monday in a fire thought to have started in kitchens.

Avon Fire and Rescue Service said officers would only be allowed into the blackened husk of the pavilion once structural engineers ruled it was safe.

Owner Kerry Michael spent 1m revamping the attraction he bought in February.

The 49-year-old entrepreneur told a press conference on Monday night that the "tragic event" was "truly devastating" as he only regarded himself as a custodian of the attraction for future generations.

'Truly devastating'

Mr Michael, flanked by more than 20 devoted employees whose futures are not known, said "the pier was Weston, Weston was the pier".

He assured local people he would not rest until the pier, which he had kitted out with a go-kart track and bar, was back to its "former glory".

It was the heart of everything at Weston
Lord Archer

He had cut short his holiday in Spain to fly home and deal with the fire.

Chief Fire Officer of Avon Fire and Rescue Service Kevin Pearson said the cause of the fire could not be investigated until structural engineers had given their approval.

"Our main concern continues to be the safety and stability of the structure that supports the pavilion at that end.

"We are not going in there until its absolutely safe to do so."

Firefighters fought to tackle the flames from before 0700 BST on Monday but the fire quickly took hold of the partly-wooden structure.

Within an hour-and-a-half the main pier building was destroyed.

Tory MP for Weston-Super-Mare John Penrose said the blaze was tragic for the North Somerset town.

The whole seafront is in the middle of a major revamp under a 28m grant-funded scheme.

Novelist Lord Archer, who used to work as a cleaner on Weston-super-Mare pier, said: "It was the heart of everything at Weston. It was the focal centre."

He said his wife Mary also had a holiday job on the pier, selling ice creams, before they were engaged.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells broke off from the Lambeth Conference to offer his "sympathy, support and prayers" to everyone affected by the pier fire.

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The chief fire officer in charge of tackling the blaze on Weston-super-Mare's pier said a sprinkler system would have prevented the fire taking hold so quickly




SEE ALSO
Owner vows to restore burnt pier
28 Jul 08 |  Somerset
Huge fire destroys historic pier
28 Jul 08 |  Somerset
Your pictures: Weston pier fire
28 Jul 08 |  In Pictures
Weston pier fire in video
28 Jul 08 |  UK

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