FIREFIGHTERS have scaled down their operation at the fire-ravaged Eastbourne Pier.

Roads outside the 144-year-old, Grade II-listed Victorian structure are now open, although areas around the pier are still shut off.

At the height of the blaze, 80 firefighters were tackling the flames from the shore, the sea and from underneath the pier.

The cause of the blaze is as yet unknown.

Detective Inspector Mark O'Brien of Sussex Police said; "The cause of the fire is currently unexplained and it may take some days for us to establish a fuller picture.
"In the meantime we are asking anyone who was on the pier at or just before the fire broke out, shortly after 3pm on Wednesday, to contact us if they have any video footage or stills photos they shot at that time.

"If you help please call us via 101 or email quoting Operation Barsham. This could help us to put together the circumstances."

Meanwhile the town's key players met this morning to discuss how to deal with the aftermath of the devastating pier fire.

The emergency meeting, organised by Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, was attended by council bosses, the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce and the Eastbourne Hospitality Association.

It was decided that business owners that saw their stalls go up in smoke on the pier would be helped by being offered free pitches at Eastbourne market, held on Wednesdays and Sundays, and more significantly free stalls at the upcoming Airbourne air show – which attracts hundreds of thousands of people into the town.

An emergency fund is being set up today to help the business owners while town hall chiefs have ordered benefit teams to get in contact with pier staff, like cleaners and arcade teams, to help them during their time of unemployment.

Christina Eubank, chief executive of Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, also called on landlords in the town to play their part.

She said: “We’re calling on all on all landlords of any shops that are closed in the town come to us so we can arrange to put the pier concessions in there in a temporary basis.

“There are empty shops which can be used to help these people out.”

David Tutt, leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said: “It was a very positive meeting, everyone is devastated by what happened but the Eastbourne community is staying strong.

“The council is going to be setting up a micro internet site for regular updates on the clean-up operation and more, and as mentioned we will be working to help those directly affected by the fire – including staff and concessions on the pier.”