Blaze destroys Playland's Castaway Cove building in Ocean City
Firefighters battle a four-alarm blaze on Ocean City's boardwalk on Saturday morning, Jan. 30, 2021. Cherry Hill Courier-Post
OCEAN CITY — A four-alarm fire on Saturday morning destroyed a landmark building on the city's boardwalk.
The massive blaze was reported at 7:40 a.m. at a building used by an amusement park, Playland's Castaway Cove, and two other businesses, according to Ocean City spokesman Doug Bergen.
"It does appear that the entire building is gone," said Brian Hartley, a vice president at the amusement park.
Hartley said the building, which also housed a Dairy Queen and Hamburger Construction Co., held an arcade, an electrical room and offices for Castaway Cove.
"We will be open" when warm weather returns, he said, noting the amusement park's outdoor rides escaped the flames.
"We will rebuild," he said.
But Hartley said the fire took a piece of history from Ocean City.
The building that burned had been moved to the boardwalk's 1000 block from its original site at New York's World Fair in 1939-40.
The building was known for an elaborate facade featuring a three-masted ship, a giant pistol-packing pirate and an oversized parrot.
The blaze initially sent bright orange flames high above the boardwalk and black smoke billowing out to sea.
"As of late Saturday morning, the fire was under control, but firefighters remained on the scene working to fully extinguish the blaze," said Bergen.
He said fire walls, required between buildings on the boardwalk, worked effectively to contain the blaze.
"There does not appear to be structural damage to the boardwalk, but this will be subject to further inspection," Bergen said.
He said the fire's cause was not yet known, and the blaze remains under investigation.
No fire-related injuries were reported.
Firefighters, who faced both flames and sub-freezing temperatures, "will be assessed for any injuries related to the extreme cold," Bergen added.
Haddon Township Mayor Randy Teague, who owns a second home in Ocean City, was jogging on the boardwalk with his wife, Dana, when they saw a cloud of smoke around 8 a.m.
"We were shocked," said Teague. "We saw that heavy black smoke and thought, 'This is something serious.' The smoke was getting heavier and heavier and the flames were getting bigger and bigger."
He noted firefighters battled the blaze from the boardwalk and the beach, with the ocean to their backs and a roller coaster looming behind the flames. Other firefighters attacked the blaze from the opposite side of the building, he added.
"Something had to be fueling that fire," he speculated. "It was getting worse and worse as they were shooting it with water."
Bergen noted all Ocean City police, fire and public works employees "were on recall as a three-block perimeter was established to fight the fire."
More than a dozen area towns sent fire, police and rescue squads to help in the effort.
The boardwalk and much of the beach near the scene were closed to the public during the firefighting operation.
"Full access to this block of the boardwalk will be restored only as conditions allow," Bergen said.
Jim Walsh reports for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and Daily Journal.
His interests include crime, the courts, economic development and being first with breaking news. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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