SEASIDE PARK, NJ (RNN) – Firefighters have gained control of the once 6-alarm fire that engulfed the New Jersey boardwalk in Seaside Park, NJ, but it still burned late into Thursday night.
Firefighters have declared the fire contained, according to local affiliates, and Seaside Park Mayor Robert Matthies said "it certainly looks like it's been suppressed." The Associated Press reports that the once large plumes of smoke and flames had been reduced to small pockets.
At least 100 firefighters were still on the scene as of 7 a.m. EDT Friday, putting out hot spots, aided by heavy rain, the local affiliates reported.
The fire claimed nearly 80 percent of the boardwalk that mostly survived Superstorm Sandy, and that more than 50 buildings hade been destroyed. According to NJ.com, one firefighter was hospitalized with complications related to smoke inhalation.
The fire began around 2:15 p.m. ET and was first reported as a 5-alarm fire, according to local affiliates. The fire escalated quickly, and became a 6-alarm fire shortly before 4 p.m. ET.
News affiliate KYW reported that the fire began at 1800 Boardwalk on the FunTown Amusement Pier in Kohr's Ice Cream shop. The fire quickly spread through 19 other buildings, according to NJ.com.
According to the Associated Press, eight blocks of the boardwalk were destroyed by the fire - four blocks in Seaside Park and four in Seaside Heights, Seaside Park's neighbor to the north.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called the fire "an unthinkable situation" that required the response of 400 firefighters, 35 engine companies and 15 ladder companies from the surrounding area.
Winds were gusting at between 20-30 miles an hour, making the fire difficult to contain as the wind enhanced it. The fire reportedly spit out embers "the size of fists," according to the Associated Press.
Public works crews stopped the fire from spreading further by ripping out a 25-foot portion of the boardwalk, creating a firebreak. The break was then filled with makeshift sand dunes to block the fire from spreading, as firefighters pumped water to fight the blaze from nearby Barnegat Bay.
Christie said when he was first briefed on the boardwalk blaze that "I felt like I want to throw up."
"After all of the time and effort and resources we put in to help these folks of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights to rebuild. As I said at the top, it is just unthinkable," Christie said at an evening press conference Thursday.
Local affiliates reported that many firefighters, bystanders and employees at the various shops on the boardwalk were being treated for smoke inhalation. The surrounding pier was evacuated once first responders arrived.
Witness Douglas Iannotti said he was afraid of the fire and the devastation it caused.
"I walk out of my house and I could see smoke coming into the sky. I walked up to the Boardwalk and I seen Kohr's on fire. I walked down to the beach and Kohr's was burning up. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Within 15 minutes there were more flames than I've ever seen in my life. I got scared," Iannotti said.
Christie arrived at the devastated area in the late afternoon from Trenton, NJ. Before he arrived, he tweeted his immediate concerns on the blaze.
"En route to Seaside now. Pls keep everyone in the surrounding areas, the firefighters & first responders fighting the blaze in ur prayers," the governor tweeted Thursday afternoon.
The Seaside Park boardwalk is a popular summer destination for people in the area, and was one of the areas most affected by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. The Seaside Park boardwalk is the neighbor of the popular Seaside Heights, NJ, boardwalk.
Seaside Heights was the location of the popular MTV reality television show The Jersey Shore.
The boardwalk reopened for the summer on Memorial Day after being closed because of Sandy construction. According to CNN, costs to rebuild the Seaside Heights boardwalk from Sandy damage came to $8 million. The total cost of Superstorm Sandy damage in the Seaside Heights area was $16 million.
Christie also escorted Britain's Prince Harry on a tour of the Superstorm Sandy-damaged area that included Seaside Heights during his American trip in May.
The cause of the fire has not been released. According to CNN, a few firefighters sustained minor injuries, but were treated on the scene.
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