By Lauren Wanko
As the sun rose over Seaside Heights and Seaside Park this morning, residents awoke to pure destruction after last night’s devastating fire ripped through the boardwalk. The intense flames destroyed everything in its path. The fire started in Seaside Park and quickly spread, fueled by high wind gusts.
“Wood and tar single roofs. You know, what two better combustible sources could you have? We had hot fires and spot fires four to five blocks north of where we stopped the fire. That’s how fast and hot and heavy this thing came out,” explained Ocean County Chief Fire Coordinator Brian Gabriel.
Four hundred firefighters from around the state battled the blaze, which spanned four blocks. This morning nearly 100 firefighters were still on the scene containing the fire. Crews are expected to work throughout the weekend combating hundreds of smoldering pockets along the boardwalk.
It’s a devastating blow to this Ocean County community. The entire boardwalk was just rebuilt.
“We have endured and begun to come back from the devastation of Sandy. We will not let these fires destroy those efforts,” said Gov. Chris Christie.
The fire wiped out at least 30 businesses. Park Seafood owner Nick Dionisio lost two restaurants last night.
“Words can’t express. Everything you work so hard for is gone I have no insurance so everything is gone,” Dionisio said. “The summer was so bad and now I have no business and I have two small babies at home.”
Not much is left of Maruca’s Tomato Pies. We first introduced you to the owners in April. They were still rebuilding post-Sandy. Now they’re forced to start over again.
“This will not stop us. This is the life we chose and we’re a close knit group up here and nothing will beat us,” said Maruca’s Tomato Pies Store Manager Joseph Maruca.
Gabrielle Basulto’s family owns the parking lot directly across the street from the destruction.
“We’re done, we’re done for a very long time. We thought we were done with Sandy and we came back as strong as ever and we’re just done,” she said.
“You gotta remember there’s quite a few people that aren’t back in their homes yet. Here we are focusing up here again. It’s hard,” said Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers.
Today business owners are asking the same question.
“What’s next? How much more can Jersey take?” asked Basulto.