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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 February 2008, 11:26 GMT
Crews tackle washed-up wood fire
Fire crews tackle the fire on Worthing Beach
About 2,000 tonnes of timber was washed ashore in January
A large fire in a stack of wood that was washed ashore on a West Sussex beach is being treated as arson.

Nearly 50 firefighters sent to Marine Parade, Worthing, at about 0230 GMT found the timber well alight.

There were fears the fire would spread to nearby wood piles and beach huts but crews were aided by an offshore breeze.

The fire was contained to a 30m by 10m pile of timber washed ashore when the Ice Prince sank in the English Channel in January.

Crews used seven firefighting jets to douse the flames and were helped by a contractor using a mechanical digger to break up the wood pile.

It has tied up our resources for several hours when they could have been needed elsewhere
Dave Howells
West Sussex Fire Service

Incident commander Dave Howells, from West Sussex Fire Service, condemned those responsible for the arson attack.

He said the fire meant crews from outside the area had to be drafted in to deal with a house blaze in Worthing.

"Although this might be seen as just a large bonfire on a beach, it has tied up our resources for several hours when they could have been needed elsewhere for a more life-threatening emergency."

Gary Towson, of West Sussex Fire Service, told the BBC the efforts of firefighters had also been helped because the washed-up timber had been split into separate piles.

"The council at a very early stage - when they were rescuing it [the timber] from the beach - broke it up into smaller piles just to prevent, you know, one huge bonfire on Worthing seafront."

Beaches along the Sussex coast from Ferring to Hastings were littered with 2,000 tonnes of timber when the Ice Prince sank off Dorset in January.

Worthing was the worst affected, with wood covering large areas of the beach.



SEE ALSO
Beaches to remain shut for weeks
30 Jan 08 |  England
Shipwreck timber littering coast
21 Jan 08 |  England
In pictures: Shipwreck timber
21 Jan 08 |  In Pictures

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