In the Central Pier fire, even though water was on the blaze within three minutes, it had already worked its way under the pier, Brooks said. Firefighters created a cut in the building's roof and were able to halt the fire's progress at the central arcade, preventing it from moving to the northern end of the pier.
In the 2007 fire, crews were able to get large amounts of water on the structure, but the fire was fueled by the building's contents -- "racks and racks and racks of T-shirts," Brooks said -- and the thick Styrofoam exterior, essentially reconfigured petroleum under a micro-thin layer of stucco. The Ipe wood Boardwalk, however, was mostly undamaged.
But even getting water to a boardwalk is often a challenge. Ocean City Deputy Fire Chief Jim Smith said that many "dead end" water mains stop at the street ends, so the department has a designated boardwalk truck they use to save time.
Atlantic City, by comparison, has a hydrant system right on the Boardwalk capable of generating 1,500 gallons a minute. Exterior hose lines, held up by four firefighters, pump additional streams of 750 gallons a minute.
In Wildwood, a FEMA grant allowed for the purchase of a pumper truck small enough to cross below the Boardwalk, D'Amico said.
In addition, Morey's Piers is in the middle of a four-year upgrade to its fire systems, including water mains at the midway point of Mariner's Landing pier that can connect with the pumper -- complementing mains at street ends -- and a "deluge valve" located in the pier's security office. If activated during winter, when the "dry hydrant" system is empty due to potential freezing, the deluge valve would fill the entire system with water if necessary.
As for the reported cause of the Seaside fire -- electrical wiring damaged by Hurricane Sandy -- "should be no surprise," Smith said. "We've had (that situation) throughout homes in town, with water getting into crawl spaces."
Added Brooks, "it degrades within minutes of being submerged in water. The contaminants start to eat away at the jackets. In Seaside, they got away with it the whole summer -- then boom."
You don't have to tell Stan Kiska about the hazards of being located on a wooden strand. Kiska operates Playcade locations on both the Atlantic City Boardwalk and the Sea Isle City Promenade, made of fire-unfriendly concrete. The difference between the two locations?
"I carry a lot more fire extinguishers here," he joked from Atlantic City. "If there ever is anything? There's a fire extinguisher within reach."
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Notable boardwalk fires in South Jersey
2009: A fire started by homeless people under the Boardwalk spreads to Schiff's Central Pier and causes more than $2 million in damage.
2007: An arson fire destroys a building that housed five businesses and causes some minor damage to the Casino Control Commission offices.
1988: An electrical fire destroys Steeplechase Pier.
1982: A fire on the Steel Pier destroys the old wooden structure, resulting in its replacement by a concrete pier.
1969: A fire destroys the Marine Ballroom at the end of Steel Pier.
2009: The owner of Flags and Specialty Gifts is rescued from a fire at his store by employees at neighboring Johnson's Popcorn and Boardwalk passers-by.
2006: A fire at Brown's restaurant guts the kitchen and causes extensive heat and smoke damage.
2002: A fire at Moorlyn Terrace destroys two Boardwalk businesses and causes extensive smoke damage to an entire block of stores.
1937: The original Strand Theatre is destroyed by fire.
1927: The Boardwalk from Moorlyn Terrace to 10th Street is consumed by a fire that destroys Shriver's Salt Water Taffy, the Hippodrome Pier, a theater and a hotel.
2005: The structure housing the Shore Plaza Motel and Sam's Pizza is destroyed by an accidental fire.
2002: An arson fire damages the Nickels Midway Pier and caused $2 million in damages. Several months earlier, another fire destroyed the pier's Castle Dracula.
1993: Two separate arson fires one week apart damage the Dark River ride on Fun Pier and destroyed three Boardwalk businesses.