Seaside, NJ-- A massive fire spitting fist-sized embers engulfed dozens of
businesses along an iconic Jersey shore boardwalk Thursday, forcing
workers to rip up stretches of walkway only recently replaced in the
wake of Superstorm Sandy as they raced to contain the blaze's advance.
6-alarm blaze began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park
portion of the boardwalk around 2:30 p.m. and fanned by 15-20 mph winds
from an approaching storm system, quickly spread north into Seaside
Heights, the boardwalk town where the MTV series "Jersey Shore" was
filmed - and where the October storm famously plunged a roller coast
into the ocean.
No serious injuries were reported as of 7
p.m., but the blaze continued to burn out of control and had destroyed
all 32 businesses on the Seaside Park portion of the boardwalk, borough
Councilwoman Nancy Koury told The Associated Press. An undetermined
number of additional boardwalk businesses in Seaside Heights also were
"We're going to be here for several days," one firefighter said as he scurried toward the flames.
blaze tore the heart out of two popular Jersey shore resort communities
whose livelihoods depend on summer tourism and who had just spent
millions of dollars rebuilding their boardwalks, arcade games, pizza
stands and bar and grills to be ready for the summer season.
devastating; I've been crying all afternoon," said Shirley Kreszl, who
has rented a summer home in Seaside Park for decades. "Haven't we been
hit enough? We try to rebuild and just when we think we saved a little
bit of our town, this happens. It's just not fair."
"It wasn't even being finished rebuilt and it's gone," one man told CBS News. "It's heartbreaking I think for a lot of people."
CBS 2 reporter Tracee Carrasco
spoke with Chrissy Hemenway, who was in an ice cream shop when the fire
started. "It's completely devastating," Hemenway said. "We've been
through so much this past year with Hurricane Sandy and now to have this
happen - there's no words. It's just completely undescribable pain."
Gov. Chris Christie, who raced to the fire scene, was typically blunt describing his thoughts as he approached the blaze.
"I feel like I want to throw up," he said. Koury said the fire caused several million dollars' worth of damage.
At one point, she said, flames jumped across Ocean Avenue, the
oceanfront street, and ignited two or three small houses but
firefighters quickly doused them. A motel near the boardwalk also was
engulfed in flames.
For hours, two boardwalk businesses,
an arcade and the Saw Mill Cafe, a popular Jersey shore bar, escaped the
flames. But shortly before 7 p.m. both were engulfed in a huge orange
fireball that rolled into the darkening sky.
Further north in Seaside Heights, public works crews ripped up a
section of the newly rebuilt boardwalk to serve as a makeshift fire
break, in much the same way that forest fire crews clear out underbrush
to deprive an advancing fire of fuel.
Christie said the
fire had engulfed at least six blocks, and was being fought by a force
of 400 firefighters, some from miles away.
Officials said the fire got underneath the boardwalk, making it even more difficult to extinguish.
"It's underneath the boards, and its coming up through the cracks," Koury said. "It's making it harder to get water on it."
Seaside Heights, real estate agent Michael Loundy, who works with the
borough on tourism related projects, was pained as he watched
firefighters make a stand against the flames on DuPont Avenue, several
blocks from the Seaside Park border.
"It's raging," he
said "It is absolutely raging. The wind is blowing something fierce,
making it very difficult for firefighters to fight."