Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Blaze destroys Hunstanton pier
But it is not known how long it will take to remove the three-storey CHS Amusements building, which caught fire some time before 5.20am.
The total loss of the building is thought to be about 1.5 million.
King's Lynn police confirmed yesterday that arson had been ruled out.
Formerly a central seafront landmark, the building was a focal point of the town centre and the town's tourist trade and the 15ft-long pier at the back was all that remained of the original 19th century pier which was washed away in storms more than 20 years ago.
Hunstanton Pier, pictured in the early 1970s. It was washed away in 1978.
The entertainment centre housed an arcade, a fish and chip shop, a cafeteria and snack bar, ten pin bowling, a tattooing and body piercing studio and children's play centre Jungle Wonderland.
Hunstanton leading firefighter John Linden, who was with the crew first on the scene, said it was unlikely anyone had deliberately started the fire because the building had been secure on arrival.
The blaze started at the back. Initially it was thought a fault at an electricity sub-station at the rear of the building could have been the cause but Hethersett area fire commander and officer in charge of the incident Terry Larkowsky said it had not been in use.
Mr Linden said the cause of the fire was currently unknown and may never be established because the structure of the building was too unsafe for the fire investigation team to enter.
Fire service spokesman station officer Graham Joy said yesterday : "We are still looking at possible causes but we may not find any because of the severity of the damage and because we cannot enter the building until part of it has been demolished and that in itself may destroy evidence."
Several Hunstanton residents reported seeing other fires in the area at the same time. Mr Linden said reports of fires at three other locations had been received but there had only been one car fire at Searles Holiday Park, which was attended by crews from Wells and West Walton.
Fire crews from Hunstanton and Heacham initially attended the fire at the amusements centre but called for back up as the whole building, which had a floorspace of about 1,500 sqft, became engulfed in flames.
By 5.45am, 54 firefighters from eight stations across Norfolk and Lincolnshire had arrived to deal with the blaze, which ripped through the building for more than an hour before it was brought under control.
Crews from Sandringham, Hunstanton, Heacham, Lynn, Wymondham, Fakenham, Hethersett, Boston and Skegness attended. Many eye witnesses reported hearing several explosions.
Mr Linden said the asbestos sheet roofing exploded followed by the front and back windows, aerosols on the ground floor and gas containers on the first floor.
Once the windows had exploded a strong breeze blew through the building fanning the flames
CHS Amusements director Tony Bowman, of North Wootton, who was at the scene from 5.30am on Saturday, said about 300,000 had been spent on refurbishing the building in the last three years and said electrical testing had recently been carried out.
"I worked there most of my adult life. I've spent more hours there than at home.
"I'm really shocked and I've only had about five hours sleep since it happened.
"The most shocking thing is that nothing is recognisable in there, it's just dust.
"But buildings can be rebuilt, it's just good that there was no loss of life and no-one was hurt ," he said.
Mr Bowman said director and owner of the building Clive Sillis had cut short an overseas holiday and flown back to the UK.
More than 20 staff had been employed in the building and several independent businesses leased floorspace.
Mr Bowman said efforts were being made to redeploy staff and find alternative premises for tenants.
He said: "We've had lots of offers of help and support from other businesses in the town."