A fire has destroyed much of the iconic Seaside Park boardwalk in New Jersey, including large portions of the Funtown Pier amusement park. Around 11 p.m. last night, after nine hours of work by fire crews, the blaze was declared officially contained. Overnight, it destroyed some 40 to 50 businesses, many of them rebuilt after widespread devastation during Hurricane Sandy. Councilwoman Nancy Koury told the Associated Press the fire had caused millions of dollars in damage. In a press conference near the boardwalk, looking shocked and sooty, Governor Chris Christie said, “I feel like I want to throw up.”
The fire looks to have begun near Kohr’s Frozen Custard around 2:15 p.m, spreading quickly along the boardwalk. Several witnesses told CBS New York they heard a “popping sound” before the blaze began, and saw flames shooting from electrical wires under the boardwalk before spreading into the custard shop. By 4 p.m., the fire was at six alarms; a chopper’s-eye-view shows it jumping from tar roof to tar roof, even as 400 firefighters from all over the region worked to contain it.
A few firefighters sustained minor injuries, Governor Christie said, including heat exhaustion. One firefighter was hospitalized last night for smoke inhalation, according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger. No one else appears to have been hurt.
It’s hard to understate how important Seaside Park is to the fabric of the area. The first attraction was built there in 1915, the Dupont Avenue Carousel. The famous Casino Pier Carousel opened in 1932. In 1955, according to an official history, the original carousel and the building that housed it was destroyed in a massive fire. There’s no official word yet on whether the Casino Pier Carousel survived last night’s blaze; unofficial word from Twitter was that it had made it through the night.
Smoke plume from the Seaside Park, NJ boardwalk fire is huge pic.twitter.com/hqqvQeIjpo
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) September 12, 2013
The area was still recovering after Sandy; according to the Star-Ledger, many of the boardwalk planks that were ripped up by firefighters to dig emergency trenches had been replaced after the storm.
In his remarks at the scene, Christie added, “This is us. As soon as this is over, we’ll pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and we’ll get back to work.”