Firefighters battle a blaze in a building on the Seaside Park boardwalk, Seaside Park, New Jersey.
By Kristi Funderburk, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
SEASIDE PARK, N.J. -- It was a refrain heard not long ago: We will rebuild.
The mantra was echoed from small-business owners to the state's chief executive in the borough on Friday. But this time their chorus wasn't about surviving a superstorm. It was a promise to rise from a fire.
"We will rebuild," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said. "We'll make new memories for our families because that's what we do."
Fanned by wind and fueled by wood-based structures, a small fire grew into a massive blaze Thursday afternoon, tearing through five blocks of partially new boardwalk before hundreds of firefighters could stop it in Seaside Heights. Between Seaside Park and Seaside Heights, the cost of repairing the boardwalk alone could surpass $1.88 million.
It wasn't until 11 p.m. Thursday - more than eight hours after the fire started - that officials deemed the blaze contained, according to Ocean County Chief Fire Coordinator Brian Gabriel.
"The first three hours of this fire, it was bedlam," he said.
The fire's origin and cause are still under investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office. Officials said it could be days before those details emerge.
On Friday, as fire crews continued to work on remaining hot spots and investigators pored over the ruins.
"We're not leaving any stone unturned." said Al Della Fave of the Prosecutor's Office.
Initial reports, pegged the starting point at Kohr's, a popular frozen custard shop located at the southern end of the Seaside Park boardwalk.
Bob Martucci, Seaside Park's administrator, was stunned by the new catastrophe. In just a few years, the borough has been through Tropical Storm Irene, Superstorm Sandy, and now a fire, he said.
"I don't know. Someone's testing us. What's next, the locusts?" Martucci said with a chuckle. Then, more seriously, he added, "The people in the businesses are resilient, and the people in this town are, so we'll be back next season."
Martucci called the boardwalk area the town's economic engine. The boardwalk businesses are the borough's largest taxpayer and a major attraction each summer, he said.