Fire destroyed the Coral Reef Restaurant & Lounge early Sunday, August 1, 2004. The first alarm was sounded shortly after 3 a.m. while several dozen customers and employees were inside said Bellmawr Fire Chief Jim Burleigh.
Companies arrived to find heavy smoke showing throughout the building and also had reports of numerous people trapped. A heavy EMS response that included several ALS and BLS units was also dispatched. It was quickly determined that it was likely that everyone in the building had escaped, so efforts quickly turned to combating the quickly spreading fire, and protecting the adjacent two-story Econo Lodge motel, which was less that 15 feet from the "B" side of the nightclub. At the height of the fire, flames directly impinged on the motel, but ultimately it only suffered minor damage.
Fire Departments from several area communities responded on the additional alarms as well as for cover assignments.
It took several hours to control the blaze, which destroyed the nightclub building, and firefighters were on location for most of Sunday taking care of hotspots. There were a few minor injuries to civilians and some of the 100+ firefighters were treated for heat-related problems due to the warm, humid conditions.
On July 1, most of Camden County NJ's fire departments implemented the use of an incident management team. This was the first significant deployment of the team. While incident management has been in place for several years, the team is composed mostly of chiefs throughout the county, who respond when requested to take on the support roles of incident command; water supply, personnel accountability, resources, etc. This allows local fire commanders to concentrate on suppression and assures that key management roles are filled, using experienced fire officers to do the additional management.