YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: More than 400 firefighters are “making a stand” at Lincoln Avenue in Seaside Heights to stop the rapidly moving boardwalk fire from spreading north, Gov. Christie said tonight.
“We’re hoping that we’re going to be able to contain it there,” the governor told reporters, beginning around 7:15. “We’re having some success, but we have a ways to go now to see that it doesn’t spread further north.
By 8 p.m., he noted, the powerful thunderstorm pounding the state will hit the Shore, bringing a great deal of rain and a shift in the winds.
“Both of those things should help,” Christie said.
( UPDATE: It was right around that time that the fire went to NINE alarms.)
“This is obviously just an unthinkable situation,” Christie said, adding that the tragedy has affected him as it has most New Jerseyans.
“The destruction south of Lincoln Avenue is complete,” the governor said, somberly.
- LIVE: A massive fire started about 2:15 p.m. today at the historic Kohr’s Ice Cream shop near the boardwalk and quickly raged out of control. CLICK HERE FOR LIVE UPDATES
Firefighters faced “severe water supply challenges” because of Sandy-related damages but were “drawing much of it from Barnegat Bay,” he said.
Firefighters and emergency responders have rushed to the boardwalk from several counties, Christie said: Besides Ocean and Monmouth, they’ve come from Burlington, Cape May, Union, Mercer and Atlantic Counties. Joining them are New Jersey State Police and state forest firefighters, he said.
The preliminary workforce numbers — “and these are preliminary,” the governor said: 35 engines companies, 15 ladder companies, and several special service units.
A reporter asked Christie whether cooking grease or other items in the structures contributed to the rapid spread of the blaze.
“The boardwalk’s made of wood, so wood burns,” he responded. “The biggest reason for the spread is the wind.”
Those winds have kicked up to 30 to 40 miles an hour, making the boardwalk burn faster than normal.
Christie also emphasized that there are no tanks or gas lines exploding, “so let’s not get that in the water now.”
As of 7:20, he said, officials couldn’t declare the fire under control.
He also rejected questions about the possible cause.
“We will deal with the cause of the fire at the appropriate time,” Christie said. “All it would be is speculation.
“Our focus is on getting that fire behind you out.”
Christie said the blaze had covered six blocks and destroyed at least 32 businesses. Some embers hit a condo complex, but they were quickly extinguished, he said.
All injuries reported so far have been minor — mostly heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation to firefighters, the governor told reporters.
Christie urged “well-intentioned” homeowners or business owners — or simple Shore lovers — to avoid temptation.
“My admonition to you is: Do not come here. Do not travel. Stay away.
“We are still trying to bring more fire equipment in here. This is something that is going to be going on. They need this access to the boardwalk.
“Anyone who comes by car or on foot runs the risk of impeding our ability to fight the fire efficiently.”
He urged everyone not fighting the blaze to wait for the all-clear.
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