Cape May and Atlantic county fire departments were part of the statewide response to the massive fire consuming the Seaside boardwalk Thursday, Sept. 12.
The blaze is said to have started around 2 p.m. at Kohr's Frozen Custard at the southern end of the boardwalk in Seaside Park. It quickly escalated, and eventually became a 10- alarm fire. About 50 businesses were destroyed along six blocks of the the boardwalk. Firefighters were reported to be ripping out the newly reconstructed portion of the boardwalk to keep the blaze from spreading. Many responders and people at the scene were being treated for smoke inhalation.
"I told my staff, I feel like I want to throw up," Gov. Chris Christie said at the scene. But, he stressed that again, the shore town would rebuild.
The fire was declared under control by 8 p.m. Thursday night, but was reported to still be smoldering Friday morning.
Martin Pagliughi, coordinator of the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management, said eight of the county's fire departments were dispatched to Seaside. The local EMS task force was also dispatched, but were called back after about an hour, he said.
Companies in Seaville, Marmora, Avalon, Stone Harbor, Cape May Court House, Rio Grande, Town Bank, and West Cape May were called to help. Pagliughi said that these departments weren't all at the fire, and many were called to provide mutual aid at nearby stations in Seaside that had been left unmanned during the fire.
"It's sort of like a domino effect," Pagliughi said.
City officials in Somers Point said Thursday that first responders from their community were also among those providing support.
"We have sent a crew to help battle this devastating fire and we send them with God’s speed," said Councilman Sean McGuigan at Thursday's regular meeting of Somers Point City Council.
The Mays Landing Volunteer Fire Department had dispatched a ladder truck to assist, according to Chris Tilley, chief of the neighboring Laureldale Volunteer Fire Company in Hamilton Township.
Tilley said the Mays Landing crew was told to be prepared for a 24-hour shift.
Galloway Mayor Don Purdy said task forces from Atlantic and Cape May counties were alerted and asked to send one piece of aparatus per community.
Galloway Fire Chief Tim McKenna said Galloway dispatched a pumper with about a half-dozen firefighters, according to Purdy.
Atlantic County emergency crews responding to Ocean County are staging at the Galloway rest area on the Garden State Parkway.
Galloway Ambulance Squad Chief Chuck Uhl, organizing a group to head north at the Atlantic City Service area on the Garden State Parkway around 10 p.m. said, “It’s real bad.”
“They’re asking for a strike team out of AtlanticCounty tonight,” Uhl said. “We’re sending five ambulances. And they’re calling for the same from Burlington.”
The five ambulances from Atlantic County were from Shore Memorial Hospital, Hamilton Township, Absecon, Atlantic City and Galloway. They were heading to standby positions near the fire scene in case of injuries or anyone requiring medical attention.
“These men will be there until 6 a.m.,” Uhl said. “Then there will be units coming from North Jersey to help out.”
Uhl himself was not joining the group heading north.
“I’m staying,” Uhl said. “We have Miss America and other things happening right here. You don’t want to tell them ‘no,’ but you want to make sure we have enough resources here, too.”
The Atlantic County contingent was working through the Ocean County Office of Emergency Management.
“We were asked to participate by the state EMS coordinator,” Uhl said.
He said the action was not unusual.
“We’re used to this,” Uhl said. “It happens a couple of times a year, for forest fires and things of that nature – not structure fires like this involving multiple buildings. We’re used to out-of-county responses.”
As of Friday morning, Atlantic County had sent five engine trucks, two ladder trucks and five ambulances, according to county Public Information Officer Linda Gilmore. Officials expect that all Atlantic County units would be released Friday morning.
— Steve Prisament, Christie Rotondo, Suzanne Marino and Charlie Pritchard contributed this report.
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