By Lauren Wanko
Sawmill Café Manager Ron Rianaldli feels lucky because his Seaside Park restaurant is one of only two boardwalk businesses in town to survive last week’s fire. Rianaldi says he never worried about energized, inaccessible electrical wires around the Sawmill.
“It never came to my mind. It never came to anybody’s mind until it happened,” he said.
But now merchants close to the fire scene worry that inaccessible electrical wires could result in another fire, one that could destroy their own businesses.
George’s Pizza was wiped out by Sandy. The owners reopened this season in Seaside Heights.
“I don’t want this to happen again. They have to have some kind of precaution or send somebody from the state — I don’t know — to check all the wires under there because we are at risk,” said George’s Pizza co-owner Engela Papoutsakis.
“If the fire happened again it could definitely affect our business,” said Ocean Terrace Condominiums Manager Maureen Kassteen.
Today local officials continue to reiterate the same message as storm victims rebuild.
“If your business or your home was affected by Sandy, you should absolutely have an electrician take a look at your wiring under there just to be safe,” said Seaside Park Police Chief Francis Larkin.
“Remember there’s a lot of people here Lauren that still haven’t even gotten started yet so I think this is a very good wake-up call and I think people will heed this warning,” said Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers.
The entire boardwalk in Seaside Park was lost to the fire, but some business owners say they’re determined to rebuild and come back stronger and even open before the summer.
“I’m confident we’ll be up and running, that end of town better then ever just like this by Easter,” said Steve Whelan, owner of Seaside Park Boardwalk property.
But there’s no denying there’s a tremendous amount of work ahead. Just last night a fire rekindled in Seaside Heights and today flames could be seen coming from a piling.
“There’s so much debris out there. You got smoke pockets underneath the debris that’s falling on roofs and stuff. And you get a little bit of wind blowing and it kindles up a little bit,” said Seaside Heights Fire Chief William Rumbolo.
Akers hopes debris removal and demolition work can begin in about a week and that the entire project can be completed within 30 to 40 days.