Eastbourne hotel fire: Seafront hotels evacuated say police and fire bosses

Multiple neighbouring hotels on Eastbourne seafront have been evacuated following this morning’s raging fire on the seafront.

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 3:28 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 4:38 pm

Firefighters were called to The Claremont Hotel after a blaze, which may ‘have started in the basement’, ‘developed and extended’ through the Grade II listed building, according to police district inspector, Ed Ripley, and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) fire commander, Mark Andrews.

East Sussex fire and Rescue Service fire commander

Mark Andrews, ESFRS fire commander, said, “On arrival, crews were confronted with a very serious fire in the basement. Very quickly that fire developed and extended into the upper floors and therefore, our crews took a decision very early on to evacuate the building and move the residents elsewhere in the town.

Photo by Dorina Kolontari SUS-191122-112841001

“From that point on, it has been a very serious, rapidly developing fire and our tactics have been about trying to protect the adjacent building as well as much as the building which has been affected as possible.

“We have drawn on multiple supplies from around the town and in fact we have taken water from the sea to make sure we have got adequate water to deal with the incident – that has been our biggest challenge.

“Clearly here on the seafront as well, the weather and wind conditions were an issue but by making sure we had the right number of fire engines - we had 12 here at one point - it allowed us to get on top of the incident and importantly made sure we protected the local premises.

“As always our priority is safety of people and we conducted a full evacuation, and I can confirm that all residents have been accounted for and staff from the hotel are now being looked after elsewhere in the town.”

The fire commander said, at around 12.45pm, there were about 50 firefighters on the scene and the fire should last about 12 hours.

“It is a Grade II property and a big part of the heritage of Eastbourne, so we very much want to protect as much of the building as we can, particularly the facade - which is where efforts are focused on at the moment.

“Debris from the fire is extending around the town, and we are working with our colleagues, the police, and the local authority, to give out safety messages to anybody who is affected by the smoke to make sure they keep their doors and windows closed and generally keep out of the way of the smoke.

“We are slowly but surely getting on top of the fire and slowly but surely that smoke is reducing in volume.

“It is too early to say in terms of how the fire did start. We are confident it started in the basement but the circumstances that surround it at this early stage we are unsure.

“We have got fire investigators here who are systematically and forensically starting to pick through some of the debris to understand what might have caused it.”

District police inspector

Inspector Ripley said, “We have put cordons up to keep people safe, we have evacuated some of the local roads and some of the local hotels. The council is helping us to accommodate those people at the Town Hall.

“It’s really, really, early and we don’t know what caused the fire. But ultimately you have got CO2 cannisters in the basement from the bar. It is likely to be those that we heard exploding, which is quite common. The other thing is the glass exploding as well.

“The guests from The Claremont have been evacuated and from the adjacent Burlington Hotel. Initially they went to The Queen’s. We have also evacuated The Pier Hotel as well and they have gone between The Queen’s Hotel and the Town Hall.

“Everyone is fine, everyone is accounted for. We had an early report of two minor casualties but there is no issues around that at all.

“The council has put on tea and coffee at the Town Hall and will be helping residents. They are really pulling out all the stops now.

“Initially there was quite a lot of significant disruption from the smoke and the actual fire itself. Of course, we have closed the seafront as well so that has caused a lot of traffic disruption, but I think as the fire comes under control we should be in a situation where we can review the cordons we have put on and hopefully get things back to normal as soon as possible – that is what we are aiming to do.

“We have had enquiries from local schools around some of the smoke with concerns about smoke inhalation. My advice would be that people keep their windows closed, stay inside, and if you are concerned at all then do speak to your local doctor or the accident and emergency service.

“If anybody has any enquiries about friends or family at the Town Hall then please contact the council, who should be able to help.”

The inspector said he was unsure if there was asbestos in the building. He said, “We have got building control who are going to be looking at the structure and considering these options.

“At the end of the day it is an old building and that sort of smoke you have got to just err on the side of caution.

“There are a lot of police here. We have got PCSOs from Eastbourne, Lewes, Wealden, Hastings, Rother and local officers as well, who are helping to evacuate people.”

Dean’s Place in Alfriston have offered five spaces, on a first-come first-served basis, in their hotel to affected holidaymakers. Contact them on, 01323 870248.