Did lightning spark Sweetwater blaze?

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June 30, 2008 10:21:06 AM PDT
As the owners of the Sweetwater Casino try to make plans for all the bookings following a devastating fire early Monday, investigators think a lightning strike could have sparked the blaze.

The flames were first reported around 4 a.m. and burned for nearly 2 hours.

Chopper Six was first on the scene, the 2700 block of 7th Avenue in Sweetwater, Atlantic County. A huge plume of white smoke billowed into the air.

Firefighters encountered a problem when they arrived -- a lack of water. Since the area is rural, firefighters have had to call in extra tankers with water to battle the blaze. Firefighters were concerned about spreading brush fires as well, so some of the pumper trucks sucked water out of the nearby Mullica River in order to get water on the flames.

The Sweetwater Casino was a bar, restaurant and banquet facility, it doesn't actually contain a casino. It took its name during Prohibition, when it was run as a speakeasy to drink booze and gamble.

The owners tell Action News there were a number of bookings scheduled, including a wedding set for this coming Saturday. The managers are trying to find another suitable location for the wedding.

As of noon, firefighters continued hosing down hotspots.