A fire that broke out near a long-standing Jersey Shore ice cream store yesterday quickly devolved into a raging, 10-alarm blaze that destroyed dozens of businesses and a large swath of boardwalk that had just been rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy. The Seaside Park fire is still smoldering this morning. Last night, when NJ Governor Chris Christie surveyed the scene (which he had proudly toured after it was restored with Prince Harry in May), he told reporters that when he heard the news, "I said to my staff I feel like I want to throw up."
Christie continued, "To see this going on, it’s unthinkable. My heart goes out to them. That’s why I’m here." While he didn't discuss the cause of the fire, the governor noted, "The boardwalk’s made of wood and wood burns. The biggest reason for the spread is the winds." One witness says the fire started on the boardwalk and then spread to Kohr's Ice Cream, before hitting neighboring buildings.
Over four hundred firefighters arrived from nearby NJ towns to help fight the fire, which grew thanks to winds that went up to 30 mph. They worked to the point of "exhaustion," as Christie put it. WABC reports:
They fought the heat, the wind and a shortage of water. The hydrant system on the barrier island is still a shambles, wrecked by Sandy, so long lines had to be run to pump water out of Barnegat Bay.
Time after time, firefighters had to fall back, finally taking desperate action and ripping up newly rebuilt sections of boardwalk to dig a 20-foot trench that would keep the fire from spreading.
Today, about 100 firefighters are still working to "douse hotspots." One woman told NBC New York, "It's devastating; I've been crying all afternoon. 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."
The investigation into the fire is starting today.