A fire roared through the newly rehabilitated Seaside boardwalk Sept. 12, proving to be a major setback for the full restoration of the area. Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy, things seemed to be slowly and steadily returning to normal at the Jersey Shore—businesses along the famous boardwalk were coming back to life, and the busy summer proved individuals in the area are indeed “Jersey Strong.”
The fire began at about 2:30 p.m., when a six-alarm fire broke out on the Seaside Park boardwalk, destroying more than 30 businesses. Due to high winds, the blaze quickly traveled a six-block stretch along the boardwalk.
Owner of Kohr Ice Cream Shop Bruce Kohr told the New York Post, “They smelled the smoke. They came out. They saw the flames shooting out from underneath the boardwalk.”
One hundred firefighters stayed overnight to control the embers and make sure the fire did not reignite.
An estimated 400 firefighters and various engine and ladder companies were called to help contain the blaze. To add to the destruction, 25 feet of boardwalk was removed to keep the fire from spreading further.
“Just when the shore started to recover, there’s another setback,” said freshman Ashley Unangst of the disaster.
Once investigators completed their work, Ocean County Prosecutor, Joseph Coronato, announced they would close all criminal investigations involving the fire. It was then confirmed that the fire started from old wiring from underneath the boardwalk. Businesses along the boardwalk were warned and told to check the wiring in their area. It is thought that the wiring was disturbed during Hurricane Sandy.
Ironically, as the six-alarm fire blazed through much of the boardwalk, many of New Jersey’s firefighters were attending a convention in Wildwood, an hour and a half away. Hundreds of firefighters turned around, responding to the call for mutual aid. Eight Cape May County fire stations also responded to the aid call, while some fire companies are still in Seaside Park keeping watch over the smoldering debris.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie visited the affected area to offer condolences and answer questions on Saturday, Sept. 14. He promised aid and loans to business owners affected by the blaze. Early Monday morning, the governor’s office announced that Sandy aid would be used to cover the cost of the removal of debris from the fire. Through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program the town will also receive funding with the aftermath of last week’s fire. Additionally, the government has already dispersed $1.8 billion in aid to businesses and will give more funding to those who apply for it, which will help cover expenses like debris removal and possibly demolitions for those businesses that are now structurally unsound.
“It’s really upsetting because I used to go there every summer. We used to spend hours in that ice cream shop,” said University freshman Quinn O’Leary.
Residents in Seaside Park try to remain optimistic as they once again begin to rebuild their livelihoods.
“As soon as this is over, we’ll pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and get back to work,” said New Jersey governor Chris Christie.