Residents, Owners React to Seaside Boardwalk Blaze [VIDEO]
Less than 11 months since they were last hit, residents and business owners in the Seaside area are expressing hope that they will, once again, rebuild.
The boardwalk of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park had not fully recovered from the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy last October, but the community was dealt another blow Thursday afternoon when reports first came in of a fire on the south end of the boards. Unfriendly winds turned the situation into a four-block firestorm.
Dozens of businesses were significantly damaged or completely destroyed; aerial photos show blocks of charred wood and local-landmark structures reduced to rubble. A manmade trench at Lincoln Avenue stopped the fire from spreading farther north. The damage stopped a couple of blocks short of the "midway" point.
"I wouldn't even call it property anymore," said John Verderosa, owner of a building on the boardwalk at Farragut Avenue. "I just lost everything I've worked for."
He said he plans to rebuild once the process allows, since he's "not retiring yet," but he fears local regulations could impede his progress.
Governor Chris Christie is holding a roundtable Saturday afternoon with business owners affected by the blaze. According to Mike Loundy, director of community improvements for Seaside Heights, the Governor will "make announcements to loosen up some money quickly."
During a media briefing Friday afternoon, Christie said he ordered a number of his cabinet members to put representatives on the scene over the weekend. He said he wants the rebuilding to being as soon as possible, indicating the last ten months of hard work can't be diminished by this new tragedy.
Shirley Miller, a resident of Seaside Park, said she hopes local businesses follow through with Christie's hope for a second rebirth at the shore in two years.
"It's sad because these people have put in a lot of time," she said. "There's so many memories here."
Crisis counselors will be on hand Monday and Tuesday, according to NBC, to provide emotional support for local residents.
It was expected Friday that fire crews would continue pumping water for days onto "hot spots" in the area, making sure smoldering remains won't flare up again. Investigators are on the scene as well to determine a cause, and their pace will decide when business owners can return to the area and assess the damage.