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Fire Envelops Seaside Boardwalks [VIDEO]

Firefighters continue to fight a 10-alarm blaze that started at the Kohr’s Custard stand in Seaside Park on Wednesday afternoon and engulfed the boardwalk in Seaside Park at Funtown Pier moved quickly north into Seaside Heights.

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The Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team offers support for Seaside
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights football team offers support for Seaside (Facebook)

10:00 p.m. Townsquare Media’s Ilya Hemlin reports the fire is now 70% contained and firefighters will be working through the night.

9:45 p.m. - Seaside Heights emergency management co-ordinator William Hibel upped the number of businesses’ damaged by the fire to 40-50 according to the Star Ledger.

The paper also reports one firefighter was hospitalized.

 

9:36 p.m. - The Rutgers football team is offering their support for Seaside in a Facebook post stating that “New Jersey’s football team is behind you.”

8:51 p.m. - Fire declared as being under control according to the Asbury Park Press. Winds in Seaside have shifted, according to the Star Ledger, from southeast to southwest. After midnight winds are expected to shift to the northwest. Thunderstorms that drenched other parts of the state will not be as strong in Seaside Heights.

8:36 p.m. - The People’s Pantry located at 1001 Fischer Boulevard in Toms River is accepting donations of Gatorade, water and Granola bars for first responders.

8:33 p.m. - Gubernatorial candidate Senator Barbara Buono (D) issued a statement calling the fire an “unconscionable tragedy.” She added, “As I viewed the pictures of the fire, I was overwhelmed with a profound sense of sadness and my heart breaks for all whose lives have been upended by this terrible disaster.”

8:30 p.m. - According to Jersey Shore Hurricane News the trench at Lincoln Avenue seems to have worked and the fire has not advanced north.  Jack and Bill’s collapsed shortly before 8 p.m. Funtown Arcade and the Sawmill appear to be okay from the outside.

8:00 p.m. – The fire destroyed all 32 businesses on the Seaside Park portion of the boardwalk, borough Councilwoman Nancy Koury told The Associated Press. An undetermined number of additional boardwalk businesses in Seaside Heights also were burned. “We’re going to be here for several days,” one firefighter said as he scurried toward the flames.

7:38 p.m. - Greg McLaughlin, GM of Funtown Pier issued a statement.  “Today’s fire is very devastating to Funtown Pier and our surrounding community. We took a hard hit from Hurricane Sandy, now this. We are presently in the application process at the DEP for a 3 and a half acre expansion on top of the existing pier. This new hit however may hinder our plan. As with most homeowners and businesses the insurance just isn’t there relating to oceanfront property. We want to thank our customers for their calls and emails offering their help.”

7:23 p.m. - Christie says there is no danger of gas lines exploding. If there were, “we’d be out of here.”

7:16 p.m. - Governor Christie in Seaside says the fire is contained to the boardwalk.  He urged people to stay away from the scene. He says the deal with water issues lines are being drawn from Barnegat Bay. He would not speculate on a cause of the fire. The Governor said there are 400 firefighters on the scene now. When he first heard about the fire he told his staff he wanted to “throw up” considering all the work that went into restoring the area.

 

 

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) September 12, 2013

 

 

 


 

Building on Funtown Pier burns
Building on Funtown Pier burns (WABC TV)

7:00 p.m. - - Ilya Hemlin reports firefighters are tapping into hotel swimming pools in order to use all sources of water possible. NJ Weather Blog says the thunderstorms are 50 miles away from Seaside Park and should arrive around 8 p.m. with heavy rain that could help douse the flames.

6:15 p.m. - Brian McCarthy of OnScene News says Mercer County’s Task Force has been brought in to assist with Shore-based crews. Crews from EHT, Hamilton Twp, Absecon, and Longport are headed to Seaside Heights with Cape May County preparing as well according to WMGM TV. They have been told to prepart for 24 hour deployment.

6:14 p.m. The Funtown Pier has collapsed and the 100-year-old carousel has been destroyed by flames.

6:05 p.m. – WABC TV reports that 20 buildings including the Funtown Pier fire are engulfed.

6:00 p.m. - Seaside Heights Administrator John Camera tells Townsquare Media that the best hope to salvage part of the boardwalk is to tear up to watch. “It’s hard to watch…but completely the right thing to do.”  He recalled the last time something of this magnitude happening was a fire in the mid-1950′s that burned much of the Funtown Pier and the boardwalk in the same area.

5:47 p.m. - Governor Christie is headed to the Seaside Heights Fire Department.  “Pictures and video of the fire are startling and sad given what Seaside Park and neighboring Seaside Heights have endured with Superstorm Sandy,” said Michael Drewniak, Christie’s press secretary. “Governor Christie is deeply concerned and will get a first-hand look shortly at the scene, where he will be speaking further with Mayor Matthies and Mayor Akers and offering the state’s full resources and assistance. Our concerns and prayers are also with firefighters and first responders at the scene battling the blaze.”

5:41 p.m. - “This is another tremendous wrench in the recovery,” Seaside Park Mayor Robert Matthies said.

5:40 p.m. – Ilya Hemlin reports that most every available firefighter, EMS and paramedic has reported to the scene.Chief Boyd can’t give an estimate to the number of apparatus on scene. “It’s just a lot of trucks with cranes in the air,” reported Hemlin. Boyd says parts of the boardwalk are being ripped up to create a fire line.

5:38 p.m. -“It’s raging,” said real estate agent Michael Loundy, who works on tourism related projects with the borough of Seaside Heights as he watched fire companies battle the flames. “It is absolutely raging. The wind is blowing something fierce, making it very difficult for firefighters to fight.”

5:23 p.m. - The Ocean County Sheriff’s Department reports the fire has held at Franklin Avenue and describes the length of Ocean Avenue as “unsafe.”

5:16 p.m. - The plume of black smoke can be seen from parts of Brick. The fire has made its way as far as the Beachcomber. Route 35 in Seaside Heights is closed in  both directions between 24th Avenue and Route 37.

5:00 p.m. - Townsquare Media’s Ilya Hemlin in Seaside Park says the wind direction is key to getting the fire under control according to Seaside Heights Fire Chief Thomas Boyd. Firefighters hope to keep the fire south of Dupont Street. Homes are being evacuated in the area the fire jumps from building-to-building

4:38 p.m. - The Star Ledger reports that firefighters have been ordered to pull back due to the intensity of the flames.

4:26 p.m. - Mathis Bridge (Route 37) from Toms River to Seaside Heights and Seaside Park is closed to all traffic except emergency vehicles until further notice.

4:22 p.m. - The structure count, by eyewitness estimates, is up to nine. Seaside Heights Public Works employees have ripped up part of the newly-built boardwalk to try and stop it from spreading north.

Free Willy ride in flames in Seaside Park
Free Willy ride in flames in Seaside Park (WCAU TV via Twitter)

The Kohr’s frozen custard stand at Funtown Pier is entirely in flames, with as many as seven other buildings all or partially affected.

Winds are blowing embers northward and firefighters are having trouble keeping up with where they land. Smoke is dense all the way up the boardwalk to Hiering Avenue.

 

Seaside Heights Fire Chief Thomas Boyd tells the Star-Ledger that several firefighters and residents were being treated for smoke inhalation.

Jersey Shore Hurricane News reports part of the building has collapsed.

Fire engines from as far away as downtown Toms River could be seen racing eastward on Route 37 toward the spot around 2:30 p.m.

The Ocean County Sheriff’s Department has asked residents to stay away from the area.

Efforts to quell the flames are hampered by strong winds, says Boyd. Other onlookers who have called WOBM News describe it as a burning boardwalk. The webcam on the Seaside Park page clearly shows black smoke billowing in the distance.

No injuries have been reported, but Boyd advises onlookers to stay clear of the area until the blaze is controlled.

Funtown Pier sustained extensive damage during Hurricane Sandy, and is due to reopen no earlier than next year.

LIVE VIDEO: Seaside Park boardwalk camera


Ilya Hemlin and the Associated Press contributed to this report

 

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