Fire Rages Along NJ Boardwalk Damaged by Sandy

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SEASIDE PARK,
N.J. (AP) — A massive fire raging for hours burned several blocks
of boardwalk and businesses Thursday in a New Jersey shore town that was
still rebuilding from damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.

More
than three hours after the fire started in the vicinity of an ice cream
shop, television footage showed flames still leaping into the sky and
thick black smoke covering a stretch of the coastline. The fire was
spreading into neighboring Seaside Heights, where the MTV reality series
“Jersey Shore” was filmed.

Gov. Chris Christe was en route Thursday night, 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.

Authorities said several
firefighters and residents were being treated for smoke inhalation.
There were no other early reports of any injuries.

“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.”

He 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 were destroying 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 being
removed to create a fire line to keep the blaze from spreading. He said
the fire created embers the size of a fist.

The fire is 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 those businesses, and flames quickly emerging nearby
and spreading rapidly.

Janet Meisner, a
Seaside Park resident, said she feared the fire could be another
crippling blow to the community, which depends on the boardwalk to keep
its economy going.

“It's a great place to
live, and I'm praying the firefighters can get this under control as
soon as possible,” Meisner said as she watched the flames and the thick
black smoke shoot skyward. “We had to deal with Sandy last year and now
this happens. We can't catch a break.”

Parry reported from Pleasantville, N.J.

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