Fire Destroys Historic Seaside Pier in Western England

A fierce fire destroyed a historic seaside pier in western England on Monday, quickly reducing the major tourist attraction to a smoldering wreck.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

"Our understanding is that there were no general members of the public in the pier," Great Western Ambulance Service spokesman Richard Turner said.

Jacquie Whelan, owner of the nearby Sunfold Hotel, said he could not believe the scale of the inferno. "They are massive red flames, hundreds of feet in the air, all over the pier," Whelan said as the fire raged. "We are a five-minute walk to the pier, and from where I am standing it just looks like a huge bonfire."

The Grand Pier, built in 1904, was listed as a historic monument. Its entertainment complex included rides, a go-cart track, a bar and a cafe.

Sky News television footage showed a fire spreading quickly through the partly wooden structure, sending a massive column of smoke into the clear sky above Weston-super-Mare, a coastal resort town 140 miles west of London.

Mayor Andrew Horler told Sky that he was "lost for words for the pure devastation."

"It's a real blow for Weston, it's such a beautiful, iconic building. ... It's really a centerpiece, just the heart of Weston-super-Mare."

Avon Fire and Rescue said it was first alerted to the blaze at about 6:45 a.m. (0545GMT). The fire service said it had 15 engines and about 100 personnel on the scene.

"It's obviously a very big job for us," fire and rescue spokesman James Bladon said.