by HALEY MILLAN and MEGAN ROMANCZUK Editor-in-chief and Section Editor
Kohr’s Frozen Custard stand in Seaside Heights started an inferno that devastated four blocks of the boardwalk on September 12, 2013.
The fire started in the early afternoon and quickly escalated to a powerful fire that was fueled in part by 30 mph winds that destroyed everything in its path. More than 400 firefighters were rushed in from across the state as far south as Cape May to battle the fire for hours to keep it under control. Over 50 boardwalk businesses were destroyed by the fire.
By 4 p.m., it was a six-alarm fire. As the inferno got worse, about 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of water were pumped per minute from Barnegat Bay to kill the flames. Firefighters and construction workers finally slowed the fire down around 11 p.m. after cutting a broad trench through the new boardwalk at Lincoln Avenue in Seaside Heights. In total, the firefighters built three trenches. Only one brought the fire under control after nine hours.
Officials said that the fire was caused by old electrical wires that were destroyed after Superstorm Sandy flooded most of Seaside Heights. The fire was then ruled as accidental.
The property where the fire originated had new meters installed, as well as regulations; however, the wires could not be inspected because to get to the wires, one would have to tear down the entire building. The wires were decades old and ruined by the corrosive seawater and sand from Superstorm Sandy.
All businesses that were affected by Hurricane Sandy are urged to have their electrical system inspected if they believe the wires came in contact with the saltwater and sand. However, officials do not want to send business owners into panic mode.
Senior Melissa Pontoriero says, “It is very upsetting to see a second disaster strike Seaside. But as they did with Hurricane Sandy, they will rebuild again and become even stronger.”
There were no serious injuries reported. Of the 400 firefighters, 12 suffered from smoke inhalation.
Some of the buildings that are still standing might have to be demolished. Of the eight blocks taken over by the fire, only one had been rebuilt after Sandy. Seaside Park’s boardwalk and businesses were fortunate and largely spared of devastation, compared to Seaside Heights.
Popular for summer tourism, Seaside had just spent millions of dollars rebuilding boardwalks, pizza places, T-shirt shops, bars and arcade games just for the summer season.
“I remember seeing tweets about the fire and then turning my television on to watch the fire cause mass destruction throughout the boardwalk. It’s also sad to see some places I used to go to when I was little be destroyed again,” says senior Danielle Paxton.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pledged $15 million in state aide for business damages, as well as meeting with business owners who suffered from the fire to promise to help them rebuild again.The damage to the boardwalk alone is expected to be at least $1.88 million.
As a tribute to the firefighters that helped out, Seaside had a free all day festival for the hometown heroes. The festival included music, a bounce house for children, and an obstacle course for adults. The New Jersey United Pipe Band also made a guest appearance to show appreciation for the people who came out and defeated the fire.
Do you think Seaside will make a speedy recovery?