Within nine hours, 50 businesses along the Seaside boardwalk were destroyed on Thursday, Sept. 15 as a result of electrical wire damages created by Hurricane Sandy. Many were affected by the fire and the damages.
Firefighters from all across New Jersey responded to the “all county call.” The flames engulfed at least 30 buildings along the 25-foot section of the Seaside boardwalk that evening causing much devastation, according to ABC.com.
“You can’t be a human being and not feel from it,” said Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President of Student and Community Services.
The Seaside community rebuilt the town this past spring after suffering damages resulted from Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
Peter Pascarella’s family owns several buildings destroyed by the fire. He said, “We had tons of damage from Hurricane Sandy. Much of the pier was deteriorated and many of our buildings were destroyed.”
Mike Kumar, senior communication major, said that the fire was “almost unbelievable” because the boardwalk was just getting over the tragedy from Hurricane Sandy. “Businesses that were just getting back on their feet after the storm are now back to zero because of this fire. It’s so tragic,” Kumar said.
Melanie Ratajczak, senior education major said that it is devastating to see all of the hard work that the state has put into Seaside for it to be destroyed once again.
An investigation that took place days after the fire determined the blaze was caused by faulty wiring that began underneath Kohrs Frozen Custard.
During the fire, Seaside declared a state of emergency involving more than 400 firefighters battling the flames from 29 different fire companies in Ocean County. Firefighters from Atlantic, Cape May, Burlington and Monmouth Counties each also provided assistance to the towns who were putting out the fire, according to ABC.com.
Lieutenant Somers, a paid member of the Long Branch Fire Department explained that based on his knowledge, the fire was hard to put out because due to high wind speeds and flames spreading beneath the boardwalk.
The firefighters were forced to face a “catch up situation,” explained Somers. Meaning that the situation was not something the firefighters anticipated and therefore required them to “catch up” with the fire to put it out.
“The emotional toll has to be horrific,” said Nagy, “What [the firefighter] did was heroic.”
Business owners, Seaside vacationers, residents and witnesses were all disheartened by the effects that the blaze created.
“I grew up going to Seaside with my family,” Megan VanTine, senior communication major said. “Majority of my pictures from my childhood are on the boardwalk or in the arcade, way back to when I was in diapers. I always imagined that someday I would take the same pictures at the same places with my own children.”
VanTine felt that the fire was truly a shame but has high hopes for the future of the Seaside boardwalk.
“It hits close to home because I grew up in Long Branch, whose boardwalk also sustained damage during the storm,” said Maggie Brocklebank, a Long Branch lifeguard. “I couldn’t imagine having another detrimental occurrence so close to the previous one.”
Chair of the Communication Department, Dr. Chad Dell has not been able to visit the Seaside boardwalk since Hurricane Sandy and will now have to wait until the boardwalk is repaired again. “Before Sandy hit, my wife and I used to go to Seaside at least once a year. Among other things, we would play miniature golf (she would usually win). I hope they can recover,” said Dell.
Tyler Whille, an eye witness to the fire, said the blaze was very shocking and objects were blowing up and flying in the air. “We were at Jack N Bills two nights before [the fire],” he said. It was a true eye opening experience for him.
One of the few points of relief these businesses can take away is that the fall and winter seasons are around the corner. These colder months are normally slow for these businesses regardless of the fire damages. This allows the rebuilding process to rebuild with little interference from tourism or normal business routines.
New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie helped also during the blaze. He arrived on the scene and spoke about the town rebuilding. “Since Christie was there, peoples’ morals were up,” Whille said. “I thought that was pretty impressive, he was shaking hands, answering questions and handing out water bottles.”
Alex D’Errico, senior social work major, said, “[My friends and I] used to go down [to Seaside] twice a week just for fun. Now we are genuinely sad.”
“It certainly has been a bit discouraging but we’re a resilient bunch. We certainly don’t give up easily,” said Pascarella. “You can’t get discouraged too much because you’ll get eaten up in this life if you do.”
Photo Taken from nytimes.com