OUT IN THE FIELD: Claremont Hotel fire brought back memories of Eastbourne Pier blaze
I remember the day of the Eastbourne Pier fire. I ran up to the seafront from Herald Towers and as I rounded the top of Terminus Road, I saw the flames taking hold of the Blue Room and, like a lot of others, I sat on the beach and cried. I felt the same last Friday. This time I was on my bike and when I got to the junction of the seafront with Terminus Road and saw smoke billowing from the Claremont Hotel followed by flames, the memories of July 30 2014 came flooding back. Another piece of our heritage gone, wiped out in seconds. Thankfully nobody died or was seriously hurt and the firefighters did a fantastic job to control the fire and stop it spreading to the Burlington next door or Afton or Pier hotels, but there are people who have lost so much: I stood on the seafront with one couple who had been enjoying their Turkey and Tinsel break at the hotel and tucking into breakfast when the explosion happened. They were evacuated immediately and had only the clothes they were standing in. I wanted to hug them and take them home with me. They actually went to a nearby charity shop to buy some coats as it started to rain and they were heading to the Town Hall where the council had swung into action and opened it up as a rest centre with beds, hot food, drinks and wash kits. The people arriving there were hotel guests but also residents from Elms Avenue. Twenty people were placed in other hotels. Staff, some of them live-in, were also at the rest centre and have no doubt lost more than most: their belongings, their job and their home. A major campaign is now underway to get employment elsewhere for those who have lost their livelihoods through the fire. Then there is the clear-up. A lot of the roads outside the cordon are still littered with fire debris. And at the time of writing it looks very much like a large part of the Grade II listed building will have to be demolished before it falls down. It really is tragic. But the one thing Eastbourne is good at is rallying round when tragedy strikes and I always
Of the scores of pictures of the fire that I have seen in recent days, one particularly stands out and that is the one sent in by Julian Williams from Eastbourne. It reminds me of a similar one of a burnt out lamppost taken by Eastbourne photographer Graham Huntley in the aftermath of the Eastbourne Pier fire. Julian has captured the silhouette of the soldier on the Royal Sussex Memorial, which is also Grade II* listed, against the backdrop of the burnt out shell of the hotel. You can see the picture on page 42.