Still Reeling From Sandy, Seaside, N.J. Boardwalk Burns

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Nearly a year after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, four blocks along a strip of New Jersey's famous boardwalks have been destroyed by fire. On Friday, firefighters were still dousing smoldering embers and other hotspots from the raging blaze. Gov. Chris Christie said the sight of the damage to iconic businesses along the Seaside boardwalks was sickening.


Heading east now, to the Jersey Shore where a fire that swept through two beach towns is now contained. Less than a year after Hurricane Sandy, boardwalks in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights are once again decimated and roughly 30 businesses are gone. Tracey Samuelson of member station WHYY tells us there's already talk of rebuilding.

TRACEY SAMUELSON, BYLINE: Some local residents gathered near the boardwalk today, needing to see the damage for themselves. They couldn't quite believe that this area could be hit by fire after being devastated by water only 10 months ago.

ARLENE ANDERSON: It's devastating. How much can people take, especially the people who have businesses? It's so hard.

SAMUELSON: Arlene Anderson rode her bike to Seaside Park from her home just a couple of miles away.

ANDERSON: The thing that I'm the most sad about is the carousel. Those horses were very old, and it had a lot of memories for children. We always rented down here from the time my children were two, and they're forty years old now.

SAMUELSON: The boardwalk was open this summer, but business was slower than in years past. Lisa Hewson visits her father here for a few months every summer. She says the area is still very much in recovery mode.

LISA HEWSON: The fact that there was no amusement ride or very few amusement rides, really kept a lot of families away. With the beach people, there wasn't as many as normally you would have had down here.

SAMUELSON: At a press conference earlier today, Governor Chris Christie said the first step is to continue dowsing hotspots to ensure the fire is completely extinguished. He said that might last days. Already, some 20 to 30 investigators are working to determine the fire's cause. Tomorrow, members of Christie's administration will help business owners start the insurance process.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: There's going to be focus as there rightly will be for what was lost. But on the other hand, we have an obligation now to get aggressive and rebuild.

SAMUELSON: And while Christie acknowledges the emotional toll this is taking...

CHRISTIE: I will not permit all the work that we've done over the last 10 months to be diminished or destroyed by what happened last night. We're going to get back on our feet. We're going to do what we need to do.

SAMUELSON: Thomas Forte manages the Sea Garden Motel, just one block from the boardwalk. This morning, amidst the noise of helicopters and the water runoff from firemen's hoses, he was out with a dustpan and broom, clearing trash from street drains.

THOMAS FORTE: It's not my job, but it's my job as a local to help out. You know, I know a lot of us, if we could do anything, that's what we want to do. We're not there in the point in time, but just like through the storm, you know, we're all here together, survive together, live together, rebuild together.

SAMUELSON: Seaside Heights was supposed to hold a festival this weekend to commemorate its 100th anniversary. Most of the events are still on. In Seaside Park, I'm Tracey Samuelson for NPR News.

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