Work crews drove the last nail through the last board of the rebuilt (again) boardwalk along the oceanfront in Seaside Heights on Thursday, just in time to meet a goal of fully reopening before July 4.
Afterward, employees removed the gates that had divided the boardwalk that connects Seaside Heights and Seaside Park where a fire devastated blocks of businesses last September.
The boardwalk had been partially rebuilt and reopened in the months following the fire, but it took until Thursday to complete all of the work.
Though the boardwalk is still absent some stands that had existed before the fire – as well as Funtown Pier amusement park that hadn't reopened since Superstorm Sandy when it burnt down – some have opened in makeshift quarters until a final plan on redevelopment is decided.
The Sawmill restaurant and bar has also reopened with a new closing time of 2 a.m., ending a long controversy over its closing time that began with a previous owner who was forced by the borough to close at midnight.
The boardwalk was not only damaged by the flames themselves, but by a 20 foot-wide trench dug by firefighters in a dramatic, last-ditch effort to save the entire length of the boardwalk from burning down. As more than 400 firefighters braved extreme heat and strong south winds that were fanning the flames, the plan worked, stopping the fire in its tracks near Lincoln Avenue and preventing the devastation from spreading further north.
The Sept. 12, 2013 fire was ultimately ruled accidental by a task force led by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, caused by faulty wiring that had been damaged during Sandy.