After boardwalk blaze, Jersey towns must rebuild – again

After boardwalk blaze, Jersey towns must rebuild – again

Firefighters battled an overnight blaze that destroyed dozens of businesses. Photo: Reuters

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (C) speaks to the media after a massive fire in Seaside Park in New Jersey. REUTERSBy Dave Warner

SEASIDE PARK, New Jersey (Reuters) – Two New Jersey beach towns devastated by Superstorm Sandy will once again need to rebuild, after a fast-moving fire reduced dozens of businesses along the towns’ boardwalk to rubble.

About 100 firefighters remained on the scene on Friday, putting out hot spots after containing a fire that started at a frozen custard stand in Seaside Park on Thursday and blazed out of control for hours, moving several blocks into neighboring Seaside Heights.

Governor Chris Christie said state agencies were ready to help residents rebuild again and praised local resilience after Sandy pummeled the New Jersey coast in October 2012.

“We have endured and begun to come back from the devastation of Sandy. We will not let these fires destroy those efforts,” he told a news conference.

The incident, including the cause of the fire, was being investigated by county and state agencies, and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Christie said.

At least 30 businesses were damaged by the fire, Christie said, including such Jersey Shore favorites as Bubba’s Dog House, Kupper’s French Fries and Maruca’s Tomato Pies.

“It’s piles of rubble, it’s piles of just char and debris, caved-in buildings with no walls and no roofs,” said Brian Gabriel, chief fire coordinator for Ocean County. “It just looks like a bomb went off.”

Authorities said they did not yet know the cause of the fire and did not have an estimate of how many businesses had been damaged.

“I don’t have a handle on it,” Gabriel said. “It’s a lot.”

WCBS-TV reported, however, that witnesses said they saw electrical wires under the custard stand catch fire. The fire then burned through the stand and spread, the witnesses told WCBS-TV.

Seaside Heights was the setting of MTV’s reality show “Jersey Shore” and more recently became famous as the site of one of the most memorable images of Sandy: a roller coaster that fell into the Atlantic Ocean, where it stood, partially submerged by the waves.

The blaze destroyed businesses over a total of six blocks in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights, officials said. Both communities were badly damaged during Sandy in October 2012.

“We’re going to go up and do an assessment and put everything back together as soon as possible,” Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers said on CNN. “If there’s a silver lining, we just built it, we have the specs, we know what we’re doing and we’ll get it out to bid and we’ll get it back up.”


Officials on Friday were urging people to stay away from the towns as fire crews and inspectors finished their work.

“It’s unimaginable,” said Seaside Park city councilwoman Gail Coleman as she directed traffic on one of the town’s streets. “It’s heart-wrenching. All of these businesses borrowed money, rebuilt with a lot of blood, sweat, tears and hope,” Coleman said.

Standing next to a large hose piping water in from nearby Barnegat Bay, Coleman urged motorists to stay out of town.

“You have to call your boss and tell him it’s an emergency,” she told one driver. “If your boss doesn’t like it, tell him to call the governor.”

Christie declared a state of emergency on Thursday after surveying the damage and declaring that it made him want to “throw up.”

Sandy, the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina, devastated the New Jersey coast. The state estimated the damage at $37 billion.

The blaze was fanned by wind gusts that reached 40 miles per hour, though the 400 firefighters who were fighting the fire at its peak were aided by an overnight rainstorm.

Crews tore up part of the boardwalk and a dug a 20-foot trench to keep flames from spreading through the closely packed buildings.

Recent News

in Entertainment

The first word of the new ‘Star Wars’ movie is …


Director J.J. reveals the first word spoken in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which hits theaters next month.

in Entertainment

Jennifer Lawrence named entertainer of the year


The star is one of the biggest and bankable actresses in Hollywood and has featured in a number of blockbusters including the "X-Men" franchise and "The Hunger Games" films.

in Entertainment

‘Rocky’ successor ‘Creed’ highlights Philadelphia’s revival


Adonis Johnson, the son of Balboa rival-turned-mentor Apollo Creed, leaves behind a life of privilege to walk in the footsteps of a father he never knew.

in Entertainment, Sports

FanDuel NFL entries have fallen sharply after New York shutdown


Entries at daily fantasy sports site FanDuel's NFL contests have fallen sharply since New York's attorney general declared the games to be illegal gambling in the state and the company stopped taking money from New Yorkers.

in Entertainment

After a gory death, ‘Game of Thrones’ revives Jon Snow


HBO's medieval saga "Game of Thrones" is known for serving up graphic deaths of its lead characters, but when fan favorite Jon Snow was killed off, avid followers speculated every theory and sighting that would bring back their heroic soldier.