Boardwalk fire deemed suspicious

May 24, 2008 3:53:20 PM PDT
A suspicious fire damaged 4 businesses on Wildwood's boardwalk early this morning. Did someone deliberately set this fire, and if so, why? That is the question investigators are looking to answer as they start the probe into the blaze.

Work crews were busy today boarding up storefronts between Pine Street and Wildwood Avenue on the boardwalk after the blaze tore through several stores on the 3200 block, destroying at least one store that just opened last night. The store was so new it didn't even have a name yet.

The fire went to 4 alarms. 10 people who lived in apartments above the stores had to be rescued by firefighters.

John Arafa, one of the victims of the fire, tells us, "(The firefighters) got them out really fast. They came in and they cut up the whole gates and they went inside and got everybody out."

Fire officials are calling the blaze suspicious and arson investigators are trying to determine the cause.

Chief Conrad Johnson of the Wildwood Fire Department explains, "(The fire) started in the rear of the store. Whether is started inside or outside we're trying to determine at this point. The heaviest fire was all in the rear ? the street side of the store. Very little damage to the boardwalk side of the store."

The fire could not have come at a worse time - the first weekend of the summer season. Nearby businesses feel for the merchants who've been affected by the blaze and are thanking their lucky stars.

Boardwalk merchant Vicky Penn told Action News, "We're very thankful. We had an angel over top of our stores last night. We're very grateful."

Luckily no one was injured in the fire.

One of the store owners is waiting for the electric company to restore power. He hopes to reopen as soon as possible. In the meantime, the investigation into how this blaze began is continuing.