"I can't believe this is happening," Koury said as she watched the flames devour boardwalk structures. "Our small business people went through so much in the storm to get ready for summer and stay open all summer, and now it's all gone. I just can't believe it."
Gov. Chris Christie was typically blunt describing his thoughts.
"I feel like I want to throw up," he said.
The Hail Mary effort to save the remainder of the boardwalk began in the evening when public works crews tore out a 25-foot swath of boardwalk to serve as a makeshift fire break, depriving the blaze of fuel, and mounded up sand to hold off the advancing flames.
"That appears to have done the trick," said Seaside Park Mayor Robert Matthies.
Firefighters continued to pour water on the ruins well into the night, dousing a long line of now-gutted structures facing the beach.
Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the Ocean County prosecutor's Office, said there was no immediate indication of whether the fire appeared to be suspicious or accidental. The first priority was putting it out and securing the scene, he said.
A detailed investigation was due to get underway on Friday.