The Ocean City Fire Department responded to the 1000 block of Boardwalk around 7:40 a.m.
Arriving fire crews found flames quickly moving through a building structure that includes the Playland's Castaway Cove arcade and offices, Hamburger Construction Company restaurant and Dairy Queen.
CRAZY video of the Ocean City Castaway Cove fire from a viewer on the beach this morning. Black smoke was billowing toward the water. Incredible work by firefighters this morning keeping this from spreading too far down the boardwalk @6abc pic.twitter.com/EyxsauuxWU— Beccah Hendrickson (@Beccah6abc) January 30, 2021
A three-block perimeter was established by emergency officials to fight the fire. The Action Cam showed firefighters battling the flames.
Viewer video captured heavy flames and black smoke rising over the boardwalk. The Ferris wheel from Playland's Castaway Cove disappeared as the smoke billowed. Fire crews could be heard yelling at passersby, "Folks, you got to stay back!"
"I grew up at Castaway Cove. I've been going here since I was like five, so seeing a place like that brings a lot of memories. It's sad," said Hailey Walker, who spent her high school summers working there.
She's one of the hundreds of people who came to the boardwalk to see the damage for herself.
"When people come to Ocean City and the boardwalk, they see Castaway Cove. It's a joyous place for people. It brings a lot of happiness," she added.
Police, firefighters, and rescue squads came from more than a dozen shore towns to help.
"This boardwalk will be open, these rides will be open, the amusement park will be open, and the businesses next to it will be open in time for the summer," said Jody Levchuk, a city councilman who also owns Jilly's Boardwalk Shops with his family.
Playland Castaway Cove says it was storing some ride parts in the building for the winter. No one was inside when the fire started, and the city says no one was hurt.
"If anybody knows us, we're going to come back with something bigger, that's for sure," said Brian Hartley, vice president of Playland's Castaway Cove.
Officials said the fire was under control by late Saturday morning, but firefighters remained on the scene working to fully extinguish the blaze.
Officials said a west wind fueled the fire, but likely spared neighboring buildings. Required structural firewalls between properties also worked effectively, they said.
The building suffered extensive damage. Officials said there does not appear to be structural damage to the Boardwalk at this time.
Chopper 6 was over the scene around 11 a.m. surveying the fire damage.
Castaway Cove posted a message on its Facebook page confirming the amusement park suffered damage. Officials told guests they will rebuild and, for now, they will be using a secondary entrance:
"To our family and loyal guests, we thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. We would like to thank all of the first responders for their hard work and pray for their continued safety throughout today's events. We struggle to comprehend this morning's events and what will be of the next few months, but we can assure you this, WE WILL REBUILD!! We have a secondary entrance that will now be our main entrance for the foreseeable future. We will be open sooner rather than later! For now, hug your loved ones, pray for the first responders and know that we will be back in the spring of 2021!"
People were advised to avoid the area as the response continued into the afternoon. Full access to the portion of the Boardwalk will be restored as conditions allow, officials said.
Neighboring agencies including the Marmora Volunteer Fire Department, Longport Volunteer Fire Department, Margate Fire Department, Somers Point Fire Department, Tuckahoe Volunteer Fire Company, Seaville Volunteer Fire Company and Strathmere Volunteer Fire Company provided assistance, along with police units from Sea Isle City, Egg Harbor Township, Longport, Linwood and Northfield, rescue squads from AtlantiCare and Upper Township, and the Cape May County Regional Urban Search Team (RUST).
The city also says there doesn't appear to be any structural damage to the boardwalk, but parts of it will be closed for further inspection. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time and remains under investigation.