West Sussex Fire Service believes arsonists set fire to a 20m-high pile of wood washed ashore from the sunken cargo ship Ice Prince.

The blaze, on Sunday morning at Marine Parade, Worthing, involved a 30x10x20m pile of timber and required seven water jets to tackle the flames.

West Sussex Fire Service were assisted by contractor DRS which used a mechanical digger to break up the pile.

“Although this might be seen as just a large bonfire on a beach, it has tied up our resources for several hours when they could have been needed elsewhere for a more life-threatening emergency,” said West Sussex Fire Service incident commander Dave Howells.

More than 2,000 tonnes of Swedish sawn timber was washed onto beaches in southern England after the Ice Prince got into trouble and then sank in the English Channel.