No injuries were reported in the seven-alarm fire, which broke out shortly before 5 p.m. Friday in the 7800 block of Pleasure Avenue in Sea Isle City.
It was brought under control about two hours later.
Multiple fire companies battled the blaze, but their efforts were hampered by strong, gusty winds that fanned the flames and spewed out thick, black smoke that could be seen for miles.
Witness David DeSimone, of Collegeville, said "It was an inferno, the wind whipping up through it and making the flames hundreds of feet away from the fire, it was just incredible to see."
Two duplexes and a single-family home were completely destroyed, while 11 other homes were damaged to some degree.
Pete and Regina Bruno of Villanova own half of a three floor duplex just across from the fire. The siding on the entire front of the home melted from the intense heat.
"You can see the outside and the inside has water and smoke, broken glass," Regina Bruno said.
Howard Williams lives on the other side of the building and is dealing with the same issues.
"The acrid smell, you couldn't stay here now. It has to be cleaned up and, once it gets cleaned up, I think we can come back in," he said.
Disaster crews have begun assessing the damage and started some cleanup. Meanwhile, the scene of the fire in the block of Pleasure Avenue between 78th and 79th remains something of a tourist attraction.
Cathy Feaster of Sea Isle City said "These people aren't going to have a summer."