Firefighters responding to Thursday’s fire that consumed much of the remains of Funtown Pier and destroyed 30 businesses had to fight an uphill battle against a wind-fueled blaze, with their own manpower and water problems, as detailed in a 44-minute chunk of radio transmissions from the start of the fire posted by Phillyfirenews.com.
After an initial report of flames under the boardwalk around 2:20 p.m., the first engine from Seaside Park almost immediately escalated the situation and started calling for backup—though calm at the time, it wouldn’t be long before one engine turned into dozens.
“Re-dispatch my company for a confirmed fire on the boardwalk,” one firefighter said, as the first unit pulled into a parking lot just south of Seaside Park’s end of the boards.
Within minutes, they’d called for Seaside Heights, Lavalette and a Fire Assist and Search Team (FAST) unit from Toms River and requested saws to try to stop the fire from spreading.
“We’re going to make a cut in the boardwalk…and try and stop it,” one firefighter said.
As more and more engines and ladders were called to the scene, the stress on those fighting the wind-aided fire became evident.
“We’re running out of water,” one firefighter yelled over the radio, as they tried to move hand lines in to fight the blaze around what firefighters were referring to as “the saw mill”—the log flume house with the Funtown Pier sign, which couldn’t be saved.
Those water problems continued over the next several minutes, as fire consumed buildings on the boardwalk.
“Where’s the water on the rear?” one firefighter shouted, and the only response was, “There is no water, I’m working on it.”
As the fire spread and hot embers swirled through the air, firefighters called for still more help barely 30 minutes after the initial response, asking for Brick and Silverton to send engines to the scene and requesting dispatchers get in touch with local utilities, including Seaside Park’s water department.
“We are going to need them to kick the pumps up and get everything going, because we are going to need a lot of water,” one firefighter said.
As the fire jumped portions of the boardwalk and lit up other business, causing explosions in at least one building, the scope became apparent as firefighters at the scene tried to shift the available manpower to cover requests from across multiple blocks of burning buildings, as far north as Porter Avenue.
“We’ve got everybody that we have right now deployed—we have nobody extra,” one firefighter said.
As other companies radioed in with offers of help just after 3 p.m., commanders at the scene gave an ominous response:
“We’re going to be here for a while, just by the looks of it,” one said.
It would be another seven hours before the bulk of the fire was contained.