What a scene it was at the Boardwalk fire last Sunday. The nine-alarm fire attracted fire companies from all around the region, more than 20 in total, as well as hundreds of gawkers watching the firefighters – both paid and volunteer, for what it’s worth – try to contain the blaze to the Dough Roller and neighboring retail store. It’s not like records are kept on this, but I don’t think the Boardwalk has seen a fire like this since the famous 9th Street fire in 1994. That blaze destroyed an oceanfront block as well as a restaurant immediately off the boards and took place during a Nor’easter, which eventually cancelled Sunfest that year. Although it was not in town limits, the scene on Sunday reminded me of the devastating Hooper’s fire in West Ocean City in January of 2002. One of the familiar sights with both fires was former Mayor Roland “Fish” Powell. In the Hooper’s fire, Powell was spotted standing in knee-deep water in the Assawoman Bay helping pump saltwater on to the fire. On Sunday, he was again operating a pump and applying water from the back of a truck. All in all, a big salute goes out to all the firefighters involved in fighting the blaze, which could have been even more devastating. There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding fire service in Ocean City, but it appeared all that drama was put aside for at least one weekend afternoon.
In another note on the fire, some of the best photos we published this week came from high school student Gunner Hughes, a junior at Stephen Decatur who was creative in his pursuit of great photos. Hughes, one of his school newspaper’s photographers, took a ride on the giant Ferris wheel on the pier and captured some unique images of the fire. At a young age, he understands the importance of having an elevated perspective and the results were impressive, whether it be a professional or an amateur. See page 14A.
In the wake of last week’s tragedy on Coastal Highway, there have been some comments on the need for the state to improve the intersection of 62nd Street. Although the talk is understandable, I do not subscribe to the notion the intersection is to blame in the death of the woman and her 2-year-old daughter. Clearly, the horrifying incident is simply a result of a bad decision. Coastal Highway can be a dangerous place to walk, but the fact is people have to cross it to get where they need to go, whether it be work, the beach, living accommodations, a restaurant or a bus stop. Some intersections are better than others, and 62nd Street is one of the trickiest as a result of the Route 90 Bridge and the multiple turn lanes. However, pedestrian safety ultimately comes down to good judgment, caution and common sense.
On a recent getaway to the Gulf coast of Florida, I noticed something that could be applicable in Ocean City. While relaxing on the beach at Sarasota’s Siesta Keys, it was interesting to overhear beach-goers constantly refer to the painted lifeguard stands as directional landmarks. “Remember we are directly behind the yellow stand,” a man was overhead telling a child. All the lifeguard stands on the beach were painted different colors and it seemed to serve a valuable purpose and in no way was tacky or an eyesore. Ocean City, like many resorts, experiences a ton of lost kids every summer season. Of course, lifeguards typically reunite the little ones with their family members in quick order, but I wonder if taking a page out of Siesta Keys’ book could not prevent some of the incidents.
Secca is getting around. For those who don’t remember, Secca is the seal that was released off Ocean City’s coast on March 3 after being rehabilitated for a couple months at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. When the seal was released, a tracking monitor was affixed to it, and I have been keeping an eye on it at www.aqua.org. As of Tuesday, April 1, Secca had traveled more than 630 miles, including more than 370 miles in six days. The seal was found to be off the coast of Martha’s Vineyards and seems to be steadily heading north.