SEASIDE PARK, N.J.
A raging fire destroyed much of an iconic Jersey shore boardwalk that had just been rebuilt after superstorm Sandy, but a last-ditch effort to halt its spread by ripping out boards that had yet to burn succeeded in saving the rest of it Thursday.
The wind-whipped fire devoured eight blocks of boardwalk — four each in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights — and destroyed dozens of boardwalk businesses and caused millions of dollars in damage to the economic lifeblood of the twin tourist spots.
The Hail Mary effort to save the remainder of the boardwalk began in the evening when public works crews ripped out a 25-foot swath of boardwalk to serve as a makeshift fire break, depriving the blaze of fuel.
They then filled the void with giant sand piles — makeshift dunes that this time held back not water but fire.
“That appears to have done the trick,” said Seaside Park Mayor Robert Matthies.
No serious injuries were reported.
Authorities had not officially declared the fire under control shortly before 10 p.m., but firefighters had made significant progress: Flames that had leapt 50 feet into the afternoon sky were gone; only small pockets of fire remained to be doused.
“It certainly looks like it’s been suppressed,” the mayor said.
Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the Ocean County prosecutor’s Office, said there was no immediate indication of whether the fire appeared to be suspicious or accidental. The first priority was putting it out and securing the scene, he said. A detailed investigation was due to get underway today.
The 6-alarm blaze began in the area of a frozen-custard stand on the Seaside Park portion of the boardwalk. Fanned by 15-20 mph winds from an approaching storm system, it quickly spread north into Seaside Heights, the boardwalk town where the MTV series “Jersey Shore” was filmed — and where the October storm famously plunged a roller coast into the ocean.
The blaze 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.