SEASIDE PARK, N.J. — They were the kind of places that made for family memories of french fries and ice cream, but also created some raucous reality TV, like the time Snooki was laid out by a barroom sucker punch.

They included an arcade where New Jersey's governor played Skee Ball with his wife and kids, and a shop where he ate pizza (at least before his recent weight-loss surgery). There were three frozen custard shacks, games of chance, and stores where tourists could buy naughty T-shirts.

And now they're gone, reduced to smoldering ruins by a spectacular fire that engulfed more than four blocks of a Jersey shore boardwalk that had been rebuilt just five months ago after being destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.

"We're wiped out again. It's just unimaginable," said Daniel Shauger, manager of Funtown Arcade, which reopened June 1 – and struggled all summer – after Sandy's floodwaters ruined game machines and other equipment.

The cause of Thursday's blaze was under investigation, though prosecutors said they had seen no evidence it was suspicious.

Sending giant orange and red fireballs rolling 50 feet into the sky, the fire brought a painful sense of deja vu to the side-by-side communities of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights, which rely on the boardwalk and beach for their economic survival.

Three police officers leaving the fire scene were injured Friday morning when they fell from an emergency vehicle; two suffered head injuries. A county spokesman said the officers were "stable and recovering."

Gov. Chris Christie, as he did just after the Oct. 29 storm, vowed the two towns would rebuild.

"I will not permit all the work we've done over the last 10 months to be diminished or destroyed by what happened last night," he said, standing across the street from a still-smoldering pizza shop and a gutted arcade that he used to patronize with his family.

He added: "We will make new memories, because that's what we do."

President Barack Obama praised the first responders who helped fight the fire and pledged support for state and local efforts to rebuild and recover again.

Christie said about 30 businesses were destroyed, although authorities in the two towns said Thursday night more than 50 businesses had been wrecked, including 32 in Seaside Park and more than 20 in Seaside Heights.

Paul Schneider, who owns three small boardwalk stands, was stunned.

"Everything's gone. I can't believe this is happening again," said Schneider, who had to rip out damaged electrical wiring and replace sodden merchandise after Sandy.

Seaside Park officials began planning Friday morning to rebuild their part of the boardwalk, at the southern end, where the fire began near a frozen custard stand. Most of the boardwalk shared by the two towns was still intact.

Bob Martucci, the borough administrator, said it will cost $600,000 to rebuild the borough-owned boardwalk. Individual businesses would not be included in that cost, he said.

The ruined businesses included pizza shops, wheel-of-chance games, and a seafood restaurant whose Facebook page on Friday read simply "R.I.P."

There were french fry stands, a fudge shop and bar-and-grills, including one where Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi was punched in the face during filming of the first season of MTV's "Jersey Shore." Another bar wrecked by Sandy had not had the chance to reopen before being engulfed by flames.

The Funtown amusement pier was so badly damaged by Sandy it could not reopen this summer. It burned, too, its landmark "Funtown Pier" sign collapsing in a hail of flames and sparks.

Christie said he suspected most affected businesses would primarily rely on insurance to rebuild.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., whose congressional district lies a few miles north of Seaside Heights, said he would ask federal officials to let the two towns use some of the federal Sandy disaster relief money to rebuild the boardwalk again.

"There's obviously a pot of money out there," Pallone said. "If we can use it for this, we should."

___

Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

Clarification: Language has been amended in the headline to reflect that the fire was not stopped by the naturally occurring geography.

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  • Chris Christie

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses the media near the area hit by a massive fire on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • CORRECTS LOCATION TO SEASIDE HEIGHTS INSTEAD OF SEASIDE PARK - In this aerial image taken from video and provided by Fox 29, firefighters battle a raging fire on boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J., Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The fire apparently started in an ice cream shop then spread several blocks down a New Jersey shore boardwalk that was damaged in Superstorm Sandy and was being repaired. (AP Photo/Fox 29) NO SALES

  • Women rest on bicycles Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, while stopping to catch a glimpse of the area hit by a fire that burned a large portion of the boardwalk, a day earlier in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • CORRECTS LOCATION TO SEASIDE HEIGHTS INSTEAD OF SEASIDE PARK - In this aerial image taken from video and provided by Fox 29, firefighters battle a raging fire on boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J., Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The fire apparently started in an ice cream shop then spread several blocks down a New Jersey shore boardwalk that was damaged in Superstorm Sandy and was being repaired. (AP Photo/Fox 29) NO SALES

  • CORRECTS LOCATION TO SEASIDE HEIGHTS INSTEAD OF SEASIDE PARK - This frame grab from video provided by Fox 29 shows a raging fire in Seaside Heights, N.J. on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The fire apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks down the New Jersey shore boardwalk that was damaged in Superstorm Sandy (AP Photo/Fox 29) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • A police officer walks near the remains of the burned-down Funtown Pier on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at Seaside Park, N.J., the morning after a fire burned a large portion of the boardwalk. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Smoke rises from the Funtown Pier Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at Seaside Park, N.J., the morning after a fire burned a large portion of the boardwalk. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Fire officials arrange a hose onto a pick-up truck as smoke rises from the Funtown Pier Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at Seaside Park, N.J., the morning after a fire burned a large portion of the boardwalk. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • People sit on the steps of a home near the Seaside Park boardwalk, where earlier in the day a massive fire engulfed businesses on the boardwalk, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started near an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. There were no other early reports of any injuries. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • A bird walks on the beach as smoke rises from the Funtown Pier Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at Seaside Park, N.J., the morning after a fire burned a large portion of the boardwalk. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Julian Burr, Douglas Burr

    Julian Burr, left, walks with his nephew Douglas Burr on their way to an early-morning surf trip as smoke rises from the Funtown Pier in the distance on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, at Seaside Park, N.J., the morning after a fire burned a large portion of the boardwalk. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Chris Christie, Bill Kramer, Craig Augustoni

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, talks to state fire marshal Bill Kramer, center, and shore regional fire coordinator Craig Augustoni during a visit to the area hit by a massive fire at the Seaside Park boardwalk, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. There were no other early reports of any injuries. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Ocean County fire coordinator Brian Gabriel addresses the media near the site of a massive fire at Seaside Park boardwalk, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started in the area of an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. There were no other early reports of any injuries. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Firefighters use flashlights while checking an area where they fought off flames during a massive fire at the Seaside Park boardwalk, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. There were no other early reports of any injuries. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • A firefighter climbs down a ladder as debris left behind by a massive fire are rest on the side of the street at the Seaside Park boardwalk, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. There were no other early reports of any injuries. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Firefighters use a hose to put out flames during a massive fire at the Seaside Park boardwalk, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. There were no other early reports of any injuries. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Nicholas Wey, Peter Irler

    Nicholas Wey, 18, left, and his best friend Peter Irler, 18, both from Toms River, N.J., stand on the beach while looking at a fire that burns a large portion of the Seaside Park boardwalk, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started in the area of an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. There were no other early reports of any injuries. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Firefighters use flashlights while checking an area where they fought off flames during a massive fire at the Seaside Park boardwalk, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. There were no other early reports of any injuries. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • A woman puts her hand over her face as she sits on a cooler in an area for first responders working a massive fire at the Seaside Park boardwalk, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. There were no other early reports of any injuries. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Firefighters battle a blaze in a building on the Seaside Park boardwalk on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Chris Christie

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses the media near the area hit by a massive fire on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Firefighters battle a blaze in a building on the Seaside Park boardwalk on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • A firefighter saws through a metal wall on a building while battling a fire at the Seaside Park boardwalk on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Chris Christie, Bill Kramer, Craig Augustoni

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, talks to state fire marshal Bill Kramer, center, and shore regional fire coordinator Craig Augustoni during a visit to the area hit by a massive fire at the Seaside Park boardwalk, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire, which apparently started in an ice cream shop and spread several blocks, hit the recently repaired boardwalk, which was damaged last year by Superstorm Sandy. There were no other early reports of any injuries. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Firefighters battle a raging fire on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J. that apparently started in an ice cream shop and has spread several blocks to neighboring Seaside Heights, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The boardwalk was damaged in Superstorm Sandy and was being repaired. (AP Photo/The Asbury Park Press, Kristi Funderburk) MANDATORY CREDIT: PAPER AND PHOTOGRAPHER; NO SALES

  • Firefighters battle a blaze in a building at the Seaside Park boardwalk on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Firefighters battle a blaze in a building on the Seaside Park boardwalk on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Firefighters battle a blaze in a building on the Seaside Park boardwalk on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • Firefighters battle a blaze in a building on the Seaside Park boardwalk on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Seaside Park, N.J. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

  • This image from aerial video shows a raging fire in Seaside Park, N.J. on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/ABC)

  • This image from aerial video shows a raging fire in Seaside Park, N.J. on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The fire began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park section of the boardwalk and quickly spread north into neighboring Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/ABC)

  • Onlookers watch from the shore as black smoke rises from a fire on the Seaside Heights, N.J. boardwalk Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The fire started in the vicinity of an ice cream shop and burned several blocks of boardwalk and businesses in a town that was still rebuilding from damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/The Asbury Park Press, Bob Bielk) NO SALES

  • Firefighters battle a fire on the Seaside Heights, N.J. boardwalk Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The fire started in the vicinity of an ice cream shop and burned several blocks of boardwalk and businesses in a town that was still rebuilding from damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/The Asbury Park Press, Bob Bielk) NO SALES

  • Firefighters battle a raging fire on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J. that apparently started in an ice cream shop and has spread several blocks down, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The boardwalk was damaged in Superstorm Sandy and was being repaired. (AP Photo/The Asbury Park Press, Erik Larsen) MANDATORY CREDIT: PAPER AND PHOTOGRAPHER; NO SALES

  • An official speaks to media as firefighters battle a raging fire on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J. that apparently started in an ice cream shop and has spread several blocks down, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The boardwalk was damaged in Superstorm Sandy and was being repaired. (AP Photo/The Asbury Park Press, Erik Larsen) MANDATORY CREDIT: PAPER AND PHOTOGRAPHER; NO SALES

  • Smoke rises in the distance as firefighters battle a raging fire on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J. that apparently started in an ice cream shop and has spread several blocks down, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The boardwalk was damaged in Superstorm Sandy and was being repaired. (AP Photo/The Asbury Park Press, Erik Larsen) MANDATORY CREDIT: PAPER AND PHOTOGRAPHER; NO SALES

  • Billowing black smoke rises as firefighters battle a raging fire on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J. that apparently started in an ice cream shop and has spread several blocks down, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The boardwalk was damaged in Superstorm Sandy and was being repaired. (AP Photo/The Asbury Park Press, Erik Larsen) MANDATORY CREDIT: PAPER AND PHOTOGRAPHER; NO SALES

  • Firefighters battle a raging fire on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J. that apparently started in an ice cream shop and has spread several blocks down, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. The boardwalk was damaged in Superstorm Sandy and was being repaired. (AP Photo/The Asbury Park Press, Erik Larsen) MANDATORY CREDIT: PAPER AND PHOTOGRAPHER; NO SALES