THOSE who battled to rescue Eastbourne’s pier have been lauded for their heroics in saving a much-loved landmark.

As the huge fire ripped through the pier, firefighters from across the county worked tirelessly to limit the damage.

Although the main arcade building was reduced to its shell, two thirds of the pier remained unharmed.

Andy Reynolds, director of prevention and protection at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, told how firefighters were initially confronted with a small fire but “it soon became clear it would be a bigger task”.

He said he immediately called for back-up, by which time he knew saving the amusement arcade was not an option and officers had to turn their attentions to keeping hold of what remained of the pier.

Mr Reynolds said: “Unfortunately, we knew very early on that we were going to lose that building - there was just no way of containing it.

“There was a crosswind going east to west and whipping the fire up and it became more of a damage limitation mission to save what we could for the people of Eastbourne.”

Senior officers devised a new plan and quickly set about saving one of Eastbourne's treasures.

Mr Reynolds said: “We had a crew at the front of the pier to stop that fire coming and onto the promenade.

“We had a crew on the beach doing the same thing, but at this stage we knew that water supplies would be a real issue for us.

“We were already over-running the town's water mains and we needed water quickly.”

An ingenious move to use two lifeboats which were at their disposal might well have saved the pier, according to Mr Reynolds.

He said: “When they were offered to us, we took them with both hands.

“It's not common practice, but the coastguards were excellent in accommodating us and it's exactly what we needed, without them it could have been a different story.”

Firefighters pumped seawater onto parts of the pier untouched by the fire to stop the blaze spreading.

RNLI crew members were commended for their hard work, especially for keeping the firefighters within range of the pier as the tide pushed the boats out. A team was deployed on to the back of the pier by the lifeboats as unseen work was being carried out from below.

“We had four firefighters in the water itself in dry suits shooting up water from underneath the pier,” said Mr Reynolds.

“They worked incredibly hard in tough conditions.”

It is now over to the fire investigation team to gather evidence on the cause of the fire, understood to be an electrical fire which started in the wall panelling to the rear of the arcade.

Mr Reynolds said most of the debris had fallen into the sea, leaving no hot spots.

He added: “The structure has been assessed and they’ve deemed it safe enough for us to lay down footpaths across the metal, so at least that's a positive.”