INVESTIGATIONS INTO a major fire on Southend Pier on Sunday night were this week expected to focus on the failure of a recently installed fire fighting water main.
Early reports from firefighters suggest that the four year old fire main on Southend's 2.16 km Victorian pier melted in the blaze.
Total destruction of the pier was only averted by the prompt response from the fire boat at a nearby oil refinery.
Ten Essex fire brigade appliances raced to the scene, but fire-fighters were unable to use some hydrants on the pier.
'It all happened at the worst possible moment, ' said an Essex Fire & Rescue Service spokeswoman.
The blaze broke out at low tide, making it difficult to pump water from the sea to fight the flames.
'But there's a dredged channel right at the end of the pier, and the BP fire tug was able to pump seawater up into the main, ' said the spokeswoman.
She said there were unconfirmed reports the main had melted in some areas due to the intensity of the fire.
The fire took six hours to bring under control and destroyed a pub, restaurant and the rail station served by the pier railway.
There are no reports of damage to the pier's main structure.
Four years ago MJ Clancy, now part of Clancy Docwra, installed the new fire main, which was supposed to be fed by submersible pumps.