NATIONAL NEWS (CNN) — Billows of smoke rolled gently out over the ocean early Friday in New Jersey after firefighters defeated the behemoth blaze that spawned them.
Superstorm Sandy had left Seaside Park's boardwalk wracked but repairable a year ago. But the flames that raged for nine hours Thursday consumed four blocks of it.
By the time the fire crew of hundreds managed to corral the fire, it had destroyed or damaged 50 businesses, CNN affiliate WCBS reported.
The firefighters had come from nearly 30 nearby towns and arrived at the blaze with 35 engine companies and 15 ladders.
By 11 p.m. ET they had the fire under control, but well after midnight, 500 firefighters continued their work, WCBS reported.
The glare of spotlights they set illuminated the swaths as they rose up into the night from the silently smoldering rubble.
"I feel like I want to throw up," said Gov. Chris Christie after getting a look at the fire on Thursday.
"After all the effort and time and resources that we've put in to help the folks in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights rebuild. To see this going on ... is just unthinkable."
The famous boardwalk of Seaside Heights was thrown into the public eye shortly after Superstorm Sandy tore its famous Jet Star roller coaster into the water. The coaster was removed from the ocean in May, shortly before the boardwalk reopened for business.
Firefighters ripped out the boardwalk at Lincoln Avenue in time to create a fire line that saved much of Seaside Heights from the fate that imperiled neighboring Seaside Park.
They dug a 20-foot trench where the street met the boardwalk to keep the brisk winds from further spreading the flames, Christie said.
Where they had been, they were merciless.
"The destruction south of Lincoln Avenue, it's complete," Christie said Thursday.
Ice cream shop
Authorities are not yet sure what caused the fire, but CNN affiliate KYW reported that the fire started at Kohr Brothers frozen custard shop on the FunTown Amusement Pier at around 2:15 p.m. The fire escalated to six alarms shortly before 4 p.m. ET.
Sandy had destroyed the FunTown Pier. It was partially reopened this summer.
The superstorm's legacy hung over the pier during Thursday's fire. Sandy had damaged local water systems, and fire troops struggled with the supply Thursday, Christie explained.
They had to tap into the sea water of Barnegat Bay to extinguish the flames.
CNN's Ben Brumfield wrote in Atlanta. CNN's Kristina Sgueglia, Julia Talanova, Kevin Conlon, Chris Welch, Tina Burnside and Rob Frehse contributed to this report.