SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The demolition and cleanup work from the massive boardwalk fire in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights, N.J., should be complete by the end of November, officials said.
Heavy equipment is hard at work tearing down and scooping up the charred remnants of a Sept. 12 fire that burned more than four blocks of boardwalk in Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. Michael Loundy, director of community improvements for Seaside Heights, estimated that about 15 percent of the work is complete.
“We’re moving along aggressively, but there’s still a lot to clean up,” he said. “The more visible stuff, like taking down buildings, looks like it’s moving along well. But there’s still lots of stuff in and under the sand that has to be removed, pilings have to come out and curbs and sidewalks need to be redone.”
Tourists, including some who came earlier this year to gawk at damage from Superstorm Sandy, now have new rubble to photograph. Skip Smith, of Northampton, Pa., was on the boardwalk Monday at the spot where public works crews made a last-ditch stand against the fire, ripping out a trench to serve as a fire break and prevent the flames from spreading.
The effort worked and spared the remaining two-thirds of the iconic walkway that has hosted generations of vacationers and was featured in the MTV reality series “Jersey Shore.”
“I came down in April to check out the storm damage, and that was bad enough,” he said. “And now this. It’s one of those things that can make you cry.”
An investigation determined the fire started in wiring under the boardwalk in Seaside Park that had been damaged by exposure to storm water during last October’s superstorm.
The two affected towns awarded a joint contract for demolition and debris removal to Eagle Paving Co., a firm owned by William Major, who owned the Funtown Pier amusement area at the south end of the boardwalk that was destroyed by the fire. It had already been badly damaged by Sandy and was not able to open this summer.
The state has pledged $5 million from a $15 million allocation of post-Sandy aid to reimburse the towns for demolition and debris removal.
The fire started under a Kohr’s frozen custard stand and the Biscayne Candies shop and raged for eight hours, destroying about 50 businesses over several blocks. Only minor injuries were reported.
Among the iconic venues that were damaged or destroyed in the fire were the Carousel Arcade, Kohr’s Frozen Custard, Jack & Bill’s, and Maruca’s Pizza.
Three businesses in the area affected by the fire survived enough to avoid being part of the teardown effort. The Beachcomber Bar & Grill in Seaside Heights, where Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was decked by a sucker punch in the first season of “Jersey Shore,” will remain, as will the Sawmill Cafe and an adjacent arcade in Seaside Park.
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