Maryland Crews Battle Raging Beach Boardwalk Fire

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OCEAN CITY, Md. -- Twenty-two fire companies battled a blaze Sunday at the Ocean City Boardwalk that destroyed two businesses and damaged several others. No one was seriously injured.

The nine-alarm fire "extensively damaged" a Dough Roller restaurant and Sunset Beachwear at the 600 block of South Atlantic Avenue, according to the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company. Fire companies contained the blaze, which began at 12:04 p.m., after 2 1/2 hours.

Windy conditions impeded efforts to stop the fire from spreading to the neighboring Playland arcade, which has been partially damaged. Several apartment units above the businesses have also been damaged.

"The building is extensively damaged," said Steve Price, OCVFC captain. "I would probably use the word 'destroyed.' There is also some fire damage to the apartments and to the arcade on the first floor."

The Ocean City Fire Marshall's Office is now investigating the cause of the fire. A damage estimate is also forthcoming. There is no indication of suspicious activity, Price said.

One firefighter sustained a minor injury for debris entering his eye. Emergency personnel transported him to a local hospital, Price said.

A teenage boy being led away from the scene in handcuffs was uncooperative with law enforcement and refused to leave the scene, leading him to be escorted away, said Price.

Reports of a person being evacuated from the apartments above Sunset Beachwear could not be confirmed, Price also said.

Police responded to the 600 block of South Atlantic Avenue around noon for a reported assault in progress, according to a news release. At that point, officers observed smoke and flames from the building.

Witnesses said they were shocked by the fire, which sent smoke billowing toward the ocean and closed roadways to through traffic.

Seeing fires threaten several well-known businesses overwhelmed Lara Marks, a Berlin resident strolling the board walk Sunday morning with her children.

"My kids grew up here, and it's unbelievable," she said of the fire. "I hope it doesn't take Playground to the ground."

Gunner Hughes, a junior at Steven Decatur High School, said he watched the fire from atop a Ferris wheel at Trimper's Rides.

"The buildings aren't on the ground, but they're ruined for sure," said Hughes, a photographer for his school's paper, who took pictures of plumes of smoke engulfing other rides.

The fire temporarily shut down several roadways in the area.

Philadelphia Avenue, which leads into the inlet, was closed south of the Route 50 bridge. Traffic was rerouted onto Baltimore Avenue.

Josh Smith, an employee at Dough Rollers, said five customers were in the store when the back of the building caught fire. Police ran inside and helped evacuate the store, he said.

Bill Gibbs, the store's owner, declined to comment at the scene.

The most recent fire of this size and magnitude at the Ocean City Boardwalk was several years ago, when a jewelry store caught fire, said Mark Nicholson, Millville Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief of engineering.

Republished with permission of The Daily Times.