The six-alarm fire that burned through the boardwalk along New Jersey’s Seaside Park and Seaside Heights on Thursday night damaged or destroyed at least 50 businesses, according to officials in those towns. “I told my staff, ‘I feel like I want to throw up.’ I can only imagine how the residents and business owners in this town are feeling,’” Chris Christie said during a Friday morning press conference that took place in front of a ruined arcade and pizza shop. For the second time in one year, the New Jersey governor vowed to rebuild the area, which was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy last October. “I will not permit all the work we’ve done over the last 10 months to be diminished or destroyed by what happened last night,” Christie said. “We will make new memories, because that’s what we do.”
At least 400 firefighters were called in to contain the blaze, which began at Seaside Park’s Kohr’s Frozen Custard and was carried along the boardwalk by 35 mph winds. They ultimately stopped its spread by digging a 25-foot trench with the help of equipment from a construction crew that happened to be performing a job on Seaside Heights’s Lincoln Avenue at the time. “It was the decisive moment. I believe that was the decisive moment,” Christie said of the effort. “The folks here deserve great credit. If we hadn’t, we might have lost it all.”
While “hot spots” are expected to continue smoldering for several days, investigators have already started looking into what caused the fire. The area has been declared a crime scene, though foul play seems unlikely at this point: Seaside Heights Mayor Robert Matthies called the conditions “a combination of the worst elements at one time.” Meanwhile, Borough Administrator Bob Martucci estimated that it will cost at least $600,000 to rebuild the boardwalk itself. The price of replacing the individual businesses is still unknown, but it’s going to be high.