New Jersey boardwalk fire: could the same happen in Myrtle Beach?
Fri, 13 Sep 2013 22:11:35 GMT —
Firefighters are continuing to pour thousands of gallons of water on the smoldering remnants of a massive fire that destroyed part of an iconic New Jersey shore boardwalk in two towns.
Authorities say the fire that raged for eight hours had destroyed about five blocks of boardwalk in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights and has leveled 32 businesses in Seaside Park alone.
Myrtle Beach has its own boardwalk, though most of what's called the boardwalk is actually a concrete promenade.
But at least an eight block section of the walkway is made of flammable wood.
The owner of Mad Myrtle's Ice Creamery on Ocean Boulevard says that crossed his mind as he watched the shocking video of the New Jersey fire.
"Hope and pray that it doesn't happen to us and you hate to see it happen to anybody," said Chris Walker.
But Walker says he feels good about the fire department's ability to handle a similar blaze, if it happened here.
"I feel pretty confident only because I know we're really close to the fire departments down here and I've seen our guys in action, they can get down here in a split second," Walker said.
Myrtle Beach downtown redevelopment director Dave Sebok, who grew up in New Jersey, says there are significant differences between that state's boardwalk and the one in Myrtle Beach.
In New Jersey, he says shops and eating places are built right on top of the wood.
"Our boardwalk, the businesses fronting on it for the most part really are built on ground, they're built on concrete slabs, they're not sitting on a piece of boardwalk," Sebok said.
Though the Myrtle Beach boardwalk is made of wood, it is also built sturdy enough to handle the city's fire fighting equipment, if need be.
"We can actually take a fire truck down there and negotiate the turn. It was designed, it was wide enough for us to put a fire engine on it, so again, that's a big, big plus," said Myrtle Beach Fire Marshal Bruce Arnel.
Arnel says his heart goes out to firefighters battling the Seaside Park fire and it would be "fools gold" to say something like that could never happen here.
But he says the city's fire hydrant system helped Myrtle Beach gain the insurance industry's highest preparedness rating, boardwalk businesses are inspected regularly, and the city is doing what it needs to do to keep the boardwalk safe.
"We're prepared to handle a situation down there, should it arise."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.