OCEAN GROVE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A massive fire on the Jersey Shore has destroyed a boardwalk landmark that had been open for decades.
Flames broke out before noon at the Dunes Boardwalk Cafe and were still burning more than nine hours later.
The longtime favorite was not yet open for the season and was unoccupied at the time, but somehow caught fire – a blaze fueled by whipping ends on the shore Saturday.
“Heard the sirens going… They had firefighters on top trying to break through the roof,” local resident Camille Cecere said.
Dunes was fully engulfed by 11:30 Saturday morning as witnesses watched in shock.
Officials say crews from all over the county battled dangerous conditions on the oceanfront.
Just when things seemed to be letting up, stubborn hot spots continued popping up all over the building, even spreading to the boardwalk and neighboring businesses.
“The fire posed a challenge underneath the boardwalk. It has multiple voids with sand dunes,” Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said.
“I was forced to pull all our crews out of building couple of times because of unsafe conditions,” Ocean County Fire Chief Benjamin Benfer added.
Ocean Grove residents are unfortunately no strangers to tragedy. In 2017, a fire destroyed several buildings and homes just a few blocks away.
In 2012, Superstorm Sandy badly damaged the boardwalk and shops in the area as well.
“This building really took a hard hit during Sandy and it had just finally gotten back up and going in the last couple of years so it’s a shame,” Cecere added.
Two firefighters were taken to a local hospital for minor smoke inhalation, but nobody has been seriously hurt.
The cafe was set to open in May. Authorities are now investigating what sparked the blaze.