OCEAN CITY — Months after a pair of devastating fires in and around Ocean City just 10 days apart, all or parts of the damaged buildings are being torn down with the hope of a quick turnaround for both.
On Sept. 26, 2012, a massive fire consumed the entire top floor of a three-story condominium building at the Bradley on the Bay complex at 37th Street, bellowing thick black smoke across much of the midtown area. The Ocean City Fire Department responded en masse to the blaze and soaked the burning building for several hours before it was brought under control.
Just 10 days later, a second major fire in the Ocean City area broke out at the popular Waterman’s restaurant in West Ocean City, and although the fire was not nearly as dramatic as the Bradley on the Bay condo fire, the damage was no less significant. Firefighters worked for several hours looking for the source of the fire that filled the restaurant with smoke at the height of the dinner rush on a busy Friday evening and it was later determined the blaze was caused by a faulty electrical circuit in the second-floor attic area.
Four months later, both buildings have been demolished or nearly demolished and are on the road to recovery although that is where the similarities end.
The Bradley-on-the-Bay “C” building, which suffered extensive damage to the third floor where the fire originated, was completely demolished this week after it was determined the lower floors could not be salvaged because of extensive smoke and water damage.
In the months following the blaze, the third floor was gutted and removed and there was hope for salvaging the lower floors, but the damage proved to be too extensive once the building was inspected further, according to resident manager Frank Kent this week.
“It had to be torn down,” he said. “There was just no way of saving it. They put so much water on that fire to bring it under control that the building was damaged beyond any hope of saving it.”
Kent said a different issue has arisen in the last week or so since the demolition of the “C” building commenced. While the buildings on either side of the affected building did suffer some damage to siding from the heat of the fire, they were left largely intact although both lost staircases on the sides closest to the burned building. To date, the damaged stairways have not been replaced, resulting in a fire code violation handed down by the Ocean City Fire Marshal’s Office.
“The big problem is the code requires at least two ways in and out of a building and with the stairways on the other buildings gone, those buildings are not meeting the code,” said Kent. “As a result, we have to have a 24-hour fire watch because there is currently only one way in and one way out until those stairways are replaced or approved temporary stairs can be put in place.”
Kent said the foundation for the damaged building “C” has been inspected and remains in place. He said a complete rebuild of the “C” building would start when the demolition is cleared and he remains hopeful for a quick turnaround.
“They’re supposed to start rebuilding as soon as the demolition is cleared from the site,” he said. “We wanted it done by summer, but that seems like a long shot now. It looks now like it will probably be rebuilt by the fall.”
Meanwhile, the rebuild at Waterman’s is also underway in earnest in West Ocean City. For months following the October fire, there appeared to be little evidence of the blaze and the landmark restaurant looked largely intact at least from the highway. In the last two weeks, however, the top floors of the facility have been completely gutted while the first floor and foundation remain in place.
At first, it was feared the entire building would have to be torn down, but Waterman’s assistant manager and spokesperson Jessica Bradshaw said late last year the main structure will be salvaged and not entirely demolished. The Worcester County Fire Marshal’s Office conducted an investigation and determined the fire originated in a second-floor attic area and was caused by a faulty electrical circuit. In the days following the fire, the historic building appeared to be largely intact with little damage on the front of the establishment, but the scars of the blaze could clearly be observed on the roof and rear areas upon closer inspection.
Bradshaw said last year the roof and the entire top floor would have to come off and be replaced, but Waterman’s will not need an entire demolition and rebuild. While the finished product will look a lot like the original, the interiors will be largely different. The first floor of the restaurant has been gutted and will be completely remodeled, depending on what is needed in terms of supporting the new top floor and roof.
Meanwhile, after months of inspecting and planning, the demolition and rebuild at Waterman’s is now underway in earnest.