OCEAN CITY — OCEAN CITY -- A fire of undetermined origin left five boardwalk businesses, a crab restaurant, two apartment dwellers and a dog and a cat temporarily homeless yesterday.
About 250 firefighters responded to an automatic alarm about 2 p.m., said Ocean City Assistant Fire Chief Steve Cropper, and worked for more than an hour to extinguish the blaze at Ninth Street and the boardwalk.
No one was injured in the fire, which ruined two buildings.
Mayor Roland E. "Fish" Powell, also a member of the town's volunteer fire department, said the great danger was averted: the fire didn't spread despite high winds that piled sand on the boardwalk. Most of the buildings in that area are old, and many are made of wood.
"It's a total loss," he said of the two burned buildings.
The building that fronted the boardwalk housed five businesses, said City Councilman Jim Mathias, a member of the resort's volunteer fire department who responded to the alarm. The businesses were two T-shirt stores called Sunsations, a Candy Kitchen, and the Alaska Stand and Planet Pizza restaurants.
Crab Alley, a restaurant on Ninth Street that had an apartment above it, also burned.
"We had closed because of the weather," said Alaska Stand owner Bob Givarz. A nor'easter that began early yesterday morning brought severe winds and 6-foot seas and prompted cancellation of a town-sponsored festival planned for the weekend. Many of the businesses on the boardwalk had closed for the day.
Workers at Crab Alley were getting ready to open for the evening, said owner Jim Farlow, who was in the restaurant when an employee came in and reported smoke in the adjoining alley.
"I got 25 bushels of steamed crabs out back in that walk-in if you guys are hungry," Mr. Farlow told a volunteer firefighter taking a break from the blaze. "I hate to waste stuff."
Although no official damage estimate was available, Mr. Farlow said it could run as high as $2 million. His restaurant is valued at $500,000, he said, adding, "How do you put a value on 11 years of hard work?"
Michael Lokey, who lived in the apartment above Crab Alley with a roommate, said he realized there was a fire when the fire trucks arrived. He was carried out of the second-floor apartment with his Rottweiler, Harley, and his Himalayan cat, Sebastian, on a ladder.
"Every bit of my stuff is in there," he said sadly, eyeing the smoldering rubble on the roof of Crab Alley.
Fire officials had not determined where or how the fire started, said Mr. Cropper.
Ocean City's 100 active firefighters were assisted by volunteer fire companies from Berlin, Willards, Parsonsburg and Salisbury, said.