Friday, April 11 – Boardwalk Fire Cause Remains Unknown

OCEAN CITY – Although the smoke has cleared since the massive downtown Boardwalk fire that destroyed two businesses two weeks ago, investigators remain uncertain as to the cause of the nine-alarm fire.

Twenty-two fire companies across two states gathered at South Division Street on the Boardwalk on March 30 in an effort to save several Boardwalk businesses. Although fire fighters went to great lengths to battle the blaze, the Dough Roller and adjacent T-shirt shop, Sunshine Beachwear, were ultimately destroyed in the inferno. Longtime Boardwalk fixture Marty’s Playland sustained damage as well, but managed to avoid the full wrath of the fire, thanks largely to a favorable northeast wind and an aggressive lot of firefighters.

Nearly two weeks have passed, but investigators still remain uncertain as to the cause of the fire.

“It’s still under investigation. We haven’t as of yet determined the cause of the fire,” said Fire Marshall Sam Villani yesterday.

The complete destruction of one building and extensive damage to another make a thorough probe paramount, as investigators looks at every possibility, Villani explained.

“It’s a large-scale fire, there’s a lot of people to talk to, a lot of areas to investigate, so it takes awhile,” said Villani.

The building housing the Dough Roller and apartments above was razed just one day after the fire. When asked whether the demolition of the Dough Roller indicates that the restaurant is ruled out as the cause of the fire, Villani responded, “I can’t discuss that at this time.”

The Ocean City Police Department first responded to the scene at 12:04 p.m. in response to a reported assault in progress. When officers arrived, they were met with the initial smoke and flames that would ultimately destroy the Dough Roller and Sunshine Beachwear.

When asked whether there was a connection between the reported assault and the fire, Villani said, “I can’t answer that,” noting that until the investigation was complete, no specifics could be discussed.

“We are actively working on it,” he said.

While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, businesses affected by the fire are moving forward, hoping to rebuild what was lost. With the Dough Roller completely demolished, plans to rebuild are already in the works, reported owner Bill Gibbs last week, adding that he is shooting for an April 2009 re-opening.