Mother Nature wreaked havoc on the Jersey Shore eleven months ago and she paid a return visit to Seaside Park and Seaside Heights Thursday. 

Building on Funtown Pier burns (WABC TV)

No she didn’t cause the fire which ravaged a significant portion of the boardwalk amusement area but it was her southerly winds which allowed a small fire to become a raging inferno and left most of us pretty much speechless.  How could an area which suffered so much because of Superstorm Sandy be left to dig out of another mess. It just isn’t fair.

You can be sure everyone from Governor Christie to local officials will insist we’ll come back “stronger than the fire” and the words will sound nice.  However not everyone will and some of the two dozen or so business owners and operators who watched their dreams go up in black smoke will be left standing with nothing but charred memories.

This was not a good tourism season in Seaside but optimists pointed out that at least there was one after Sandy and 2014 would be better.  Now who knows what the future will bring.

As one who grew up in Seaside Heights and worked for many years on the boardwalk I know the nature of being in the business in which you rely on 100 days to pretty much make your living.   You deal with the ups and downs of bad weather and bad economic times and realize you have no control over that so you wish for sunshine and low gas prices.  However it’s hard to accept that in less than a year you would have deal with both an epic storm and fire and it’s understandable to look to the heavens and say “why us?”

Fire at Kohr's Custard Stand in Seaside Park (Peter Smith)

I will take a moment to praise the volunteers who make up fire departments in our area and other first responders.  We never really think of them when we hear an alarm, sometimes in the middle of the night.  We turn over and go back to sleep; they get up and get out.  Throughout the afternoon and evening we watched these men and women risk their lives and battle incredible conditions.  We gasped at the site of the flames and smoke; they were right in the middle of it.

From all over Ocean County they came and then later other parts of the state. ..volunteers who left their jobs and families and jumped into the front lines.  Every one of them deserves our praise and respect.