More than 100 firefighters battled a blaze that gutted a popular Ocean City pizza shop and damaged a nearby building yesterday, sending plumes of thick black smoke along a boardwalk filled with some of the seasons first tourists.
Fire officials were called to the historic two-story building that housed the Dough Roller restaurant and a T-shirt shop on South Atlantic Street just after noon, Ocean City police spokesman Vance Row said. Capt. Steve Price of the Ocean City Fire Department said strong winds made it difficult to contain the blaze, and firefighters from three counties were called in to help.
There were no serious injuries, but one firefighter suffered a minor eye injury and was taken to a hospital, officials said. The cause of the fire had not been determined, they said.
The restaurant and T-shirt shop were "extensively damaged," Price said. The fire spread to an arcade and apartments in an adjacent building that also had some damage, he said. Police said U.S. 50 was closed briefly.
Joe Kro-Art, who owns Ocean Gallery World Center, an art gallery about five blocks from the site of the fire, said the wail of sirens just after noon prompted him to look outside.
"We saw tons of black smoke pouring from a building that was obviously right on the boardwalk," he said. "It was something that when you saw it made you shudder, because you knew with that much smoke, it was bad."
About the same time, his son, Joey Kroart, who lives across Sinepuxent Bay, heard the firetrucks and went to his window. "I looked across the bay and said, Oh my God! " Kroart recalled. "I could see flames shooting."
Town Council President Joseph M. Mitrecic, who visited the scene with Mayor Richard W. Meehan, said the fire occurred in "one of the oldest buildings on the boardwalk." He said a passing police officer saw smoke coming out of the building as the restaurant was preparing to open.
"There was a time when a fire like this wouldve cost the city a whole block," Mitrecic said. He said Ocean Citys combination professional and volunteer fire department, aided by surrounding departments, "did a great job working together to get the fire under control."
Firefighters from Worcester and Wicomico counties and Delawares Sussex County responded to the blaze. Price said that the fire was under control by 2:30 p.m. but that firefighters remained to tackle hot spots.
In addition to Dough Roller and the T-shirt shop, Martys Playland arcade suffered damage, Mitrecic said, and two or three apartments above the arcade were seriously damaged. Trimpers Rides, an amusement park and nearby landmark, was unharmed.
Ocean Citys famed boardwalk did not appear to be seriously damaged, Mitrecic said, although he said there was so much water and debris at the scene that it was difficult to tell.
The popular resort town had a good crowd yesterday, with some school systems on spring break and the landmark Ferris wheel on the pier up and running.
"Beautiful day in Ocean City, except for the fire," Price said.
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