SEASIDE PARK, N.J. (AP) — A massive fire fanned by stiff winds and fueled by tar roofs burned several blocks of boardwalk and businesses Thursday in a New Jersey shore town that was still rebuilding from damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.
Four hours after the fire started in the vicinity of an ice cream shop, flames were still leaping into the sky and thick black smoke covered a long stretch of the coastline. The fire spread into neighboring Seaside Heights, where the MTV reality series “Jersey Shore” was filmed.
“We had to deal with Sandy last year and now this happens. We can’t catch a break,” said resident Janet Meisner as she watched firefighters struggle to contain the flames, which jumped from building to building.
Gov. Chris Christie was en route, promising the full assistance of the state in dealing with the devastation.
“Pictures and video of the fire are startling and sad given what Seaside Park and neighboring Seaside Heights have endured with Superstorm Sandy,” said the governor’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak.
Television footage showed an excavator being used to dig up a section of boardwalk to create a fire line, and a fire truck drawing water from a motel swimming pool.
Early Thursday night, a building at the Funtown Pier that residents said was once a haunted house collapsed into a pile of burning embers
Authorities said several firefighters and residents were being treated for smoke inhalation. There were no other early reports of any injuries.
Real estate agent Michael Loundy, who works on tourism related projects with the borough of Seaside Heights, said fire crews were making a stand against the spread of the flames at DuPont Avenue, several blocks north of the boundary with Seaside Park to the south.
The flames destroyed new boardwalk wood that had just been replaced days before Memorial Day weekend as both towns raced to recover from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. Much of the Seaside Heights boardwalk was destroyed, and a roller coaster that plunged off a damaged amusement pier became a defining image of the storm.
“This is another tremendous wrench in the recovery,” Seaside Park Mayor Robert Matthies said.
Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd said a section of boardwalk was removed to create a fire break as embers the size of a fist floated through the air.
The fire was believed to have started in or near a Kohr’s custard shop.
A witness told News 12 New Jersey that she saw smoke coming from under the boardwalk near the business, and flames quickly emerging nearby and spreading rapidly.
Residents said the fire could be another crippling blow to the community, which depends on the boardwalk to keep its economy going.