A HUGE BLAZE and plumes of thick black smoke have engulfed Eastbourne Pier.
Sun seekers at the popular seaside destination looked on as the pier and its building went up in flames today.
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service crews are at the scene which has been documented by onlookers posting dramatic photographs on Twitter.
Pictures show people on the shore looking across at the building with its roof almost entirely consumed by flames and the sky filled with black smoke.
The fire service said on its website: “East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service are at the scene of a fire at Eastbourne Pier. Around 60 firefighters are now in attendance and tackling the fire. They were called out at 15.13 on 30 July 2014.
“A two storey building on the Pier measuring around 30 metres by 50 metres was well alight. The building is about 50 metres from the shoreline. A large plume of smoke can be seen above Eastbourne.
“Sussex Police and the Coastguard are also in attendance.”
They said they would provide an update on the incident later.
On its website Eastbourne Pier is billed as a “wonderful place”, “the perfect day out” and “one of the most popular attractions in the UK”.
It says it caters for all age groups and features an amusement arcade called Funtasia, the Waterfront Cafe Bar, Victorian tea rooms, and it is home to the Atlantis nightclub.
Eastbourne Pier is also a wedding venue which offers panoramic views across the south coast.
The website says: “The Ocean Suite wedding venue is located at the end of Eastbourne Pier, reached via stairs to a private traditional terrace area, perfect for your drink reception, the suite can hold up to 180 guests and is glassed to three sides and bathed in natural light which gives a spectacular feeling of being on board a luxury boat.”
It is not known how much damage the fire has caused to that particular area.
The sea end of the pier appears to be unaffected by the fire.
Sussex Police said they had officers at the scene to help with local road closures and in preventing the public getting too close to the fire.
Eastbourne Pier is not the first pier to suffer from a blaze.
In 2003, the 148-year-old West Pier in Brighton was reduced to a mangled mass of metal by two major blazes within two months.
Southend-on-Sea Pier in Essex, the longest pleasure pier in the world at 7,080 feet (2,156 metres), was badly damaged by fire in 2005. A previous fire damaged it in 1976.
Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare was badly damaged by a blaze in 2008, and in 2010 the grade-II listed Hastings Pier was almost destroyed by fire.
A spokesman for the RNLI said: “Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteer crews are helping firefighters tackle a blaze at Eastbourne pier this afternoon.
“Lifeboats from Eastbourne, Hastings and Newhaven have been committed by the RNLI to assist firefighters in any way possible, including taking them afloat to help tackle the blaze.
“Eastbourne’s inshore lifeboat the Laurence and Percy Hobbs was launched at 4pm, followed by the charity’s all-weather lifeboat Diamond Jubilee at 4.15pm. Crews from Hastings lifeboat station and Newhaven followed.”