Boardwalk Fire Storm

A fire in Seaside Park, NJ, in September 2013 that originated under a section of boardwalk spread to four blocks of commercial buildings that housed more than 50 businesses. The wind-swept fire required the response of dozens of fire departments in...


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Dispatchers notified the incident commander that several fire alarms were being received from commercial occupancies north of the visible fire. In one location, a building was on fire, but additional fire was far past that spot underneath the boardwalk. Additional companies were directed to get ahead of the fire as winds continued to drive the fire directly north in line with the boardwalk.

Water mains along the oceanfront were eight inches wide. There were six-inch mains nearby and in Seaside Heights a 12-inch main supplied that area. The water company was notified to do what it could to increase pressure and open interconnects between the different water companies.

Burning embers were being blown several blocks ahead of the fire and firefighters were being pelted with large chunks of burning tar and wood. The immediate original fire area contained only commercial buildings, but fire communicated to the roof of an occupied condominium to the north. This fire became serious and other responding units were directed to this and other locations. The police evacuated blocks in the path of the fire that included several occupied dwellings. Additional units, including brush trucks and mini-pumpers, were used to chase burning embers. Fires also communicated to the roofs of restaurants and to the boardwalk seven blocks to the north.

At the height of the fire, 50 of the 60 fire departments from Ocean County responded to the scene. Task forces were requested from four neighboring counties. Some of these units responded to the scene or to cover empty firehouses. A task force from one county responded with additional engines and a five-inch hose pipeline to augment water supply. An additional 4,000 to 5,000 feet of large-diameter hose was stretched to Barnegat Bay and another five-inch supply line was stretched about 4,000 feet to the bay as a backup.

A track-hoe was used to make a trench cut in the boardwalk to create a fire break. Additional handlines, deck guns and ladder pipes were positioned to try to make a stop. The piece of construction equipment was extremely useful in making the trench cut. It was straining to remove the lumber from this section of the boardwalk as it had just recently been reconstructed for the summer season after Sandy. The fire was eventually controlled at this trench cut. The use of an aggressive defensive attack is credited with stopping the inferno. The fire spread north, consuming four total blocks measuring about 900 feet, including more than 40 businesses.

One of the regional coordinators suggested using additional large-diameter hose systems. Eventually, the Neptune System from northern New Jersey was requested. Units responded and stretched a three-quarter-mile, 12-inch water line and drafted from the bay. The system pumped 6,500 gpm for about six hours. Approximately 2.3 million gallons of water were transported using this system. This water was used in the overhaul stage. Throughout the fire, numerous law enforcement agencies responded with food and refreshments. Neighbors and businesses also came to help.

Units remained on scene until about 5 P.M. the following day. Crews from several task forces were used to cover empty fire stations. There were no firefighter injuries. A wide variety of fire equipment was lost, especially when firefighters were ordered to immediately evacuate dangerous areas.

Last year, the Seaside Park Fire Department had to deal with Hurricane Sandy. This year, the department was first-due to the boardwalk inferno. In between, members celebrated their 100th anniversary on May 6, 2013.