Boardwalk Fire of 2000

jonfireOn Tuesday, August 29, 2000,  a fire destroyed the North end of the 4300 block of the Wildwood Boardwalk. Why was the Boardwalk Chapel spared?arialshotfire The Associated Press quoted Jon Stevenson the director of the Chapel… “At 3 a.m., we started praying for God’s intervention… God uses many ways to carry out his purpose. This morning, it was the firemen he chose to use.” (AP – 8/29/2000)

Fire Scenes 1. shows black smoke followed by a red ball of flame (center) shooting like a jet blast out the back of the basement of the corner T-shirt shop. (approx. 2:30 a.m.)

2. The haze of the fire, a fire that was slowly moving towards the Chapel. (approx. 3:30 a.m.) The “lights” to the right are from the reflectors on firemen’s suits and helmets.

3. Flames flare up around 5:30 a.m. as the roof of the several stores caves in momentarily engulfing the Chapel. Fire fighters were not sure at that moment that the Chapel could be spared major damage.

4. Here is the  back of the Chapel and burning boardwalk shops. (approx. 6:30 a.m.)

5. The side of the destroyed building rests against the Chapel. (approx. 3:00 p.m.)

6. The burned out stores against the backdrop of the Chapel (app 4:00 p.m.) It was a soot encased environment during most of the fire.

We had a couple of brief services on the Boardwalk in front of the Chapel during the Labor Day weekend.

Thank you for your prayers and encouraging words. It has been an emotionally draining and humbling experience. But the opportunity to give glory to God, to acknowledge his sovereignty and to highlight His providential care in numerous TV, radio, and newspaper interviews, has provided an unending stream of blessings.

Some notes from here and there.
As I sit here 2200 miles from you in [Montana] in the midst of a major forest fire and yet I hear about the fire at the chapel, a place we dearly love. Have worked there several times when we lived in NJ and we are praising the Lord for the wonderful way he spared major damage to the building. He is truly good! We will pray for workers to restore you to normal by next season. Please pray for the fire here to end and to keep our people safe as well as there homes. Thanks! John and Gail

In an e-mail note to her friends…   As far as I know, there was only smoke and water damage to the chapel and don’t think it was extensive.  The chapel was open when they showed it on the news.  They even talked to Jon Stevenson.  The siding on the chapel was not even melted at all.  God was truly looking out for it.  The building next to it was completely destroyed.  I think it would take a lot for Jon to close the chapel.  Let’s just praise God that He protected that vital ministry.   Debbie

Note: The director received a lot of calls or e-mails, like the one below, offering assistance.

Hi Jon,   We have been thanking God that the chapel was spared since we heard about the fire.  We want to make ourselves available to you this weekend if you feel we can help with anything like repairs or whatever needs you may have. Please contact us.  We are at your disposal.  And may God continue to bless your ministry on the boardwalk.   Mike and Denise

Hey There,   So I was watching the news last night, and it seemed that every channel I turned to had a picture of your face talking about the providence of God.  I was pleased to hear that the Chapel survived the fire with almost no damage except for water and smoke and that no one in the chapel was injured.  It was truly God that was at work that evening.  And who knows maybe it was divine judgment for all the noise those stores made while you were conducting services 🙂   Just wanted to drop a note and say how happy I was that it all worked out and that the providence of God was broadcast on every major Philadelphia station as well as NJN.    Kevin

Here is today’s report on the fire in Wildwood copied from

Wildwood Fire Controlled
By KYW’s David Madden

Firefighters in Wildwood have controlled a blaze that’s gutted at least three businesses on the  boardwalk.  The fire, near Baker Avenue, broke out around 1:30 Tuesday morning. It destroyed two T-shirt shops and a dollar store. A three-foot-wide alley saved the famous Boardwalk Chapel. No injuries are reported. There’s no indication of a cause, yet.  (Thanks for your phone message today about the fire. By the time I got home and heard it I had already caught up on the news by the Internet. In the early afternoon WPVI’s website had a neat aerial photo showing the Chapel in the corner and the burned out stores still smoldering. 0

FirePics 7 to 14The Associated Press article quoted Jon as follows:
“At 3 a.m., we started praying for God’s intervention,” said Elder Jon Stevenson, director of the Presbyterian chapel. “God uses many ways to carry out his purpose. This morning, it was the firemen he chose to use.”  The chapel sustained some smoke damage, and its white vinyl siding was singed but was otherwise unscathed. Also untouched was the construction site of a $70 million convention center being built on the beach, about 50 yards from the fire.   Luke

  7. It was a soot encased environment during most of the fire.

 8. The back of the Chapel had a foot and a half of filthy water causing the recently cleaned up storage and parking area to be covered with a layer sooty silt.

 9. A forlorn picture out of the front of the Chapel the day after the fire. (Note the “Great White” roller coaster in the distance.) Extensive water and smoke damage will keep the Chapel closed for the remainder of the 2000 season. During the winter, repairs will be made in time for Memorial Day 2001.

10. Firemen, get out of the rain to take a lunch time break in the Chapel they help to save.

11. Looking out the second floor bedroom window to the fire scene… That’s close…

 12. As many as six TV crews from Philadelphia, NJ, and New York brought their cameras to Wildwood.

 13. John (center) owner of Angelo’s Pizza stands with a couple of the Faith Church young people he awakened at the beginning of the fire.

 14. Boardwalk Chapel staff, Faith Church youth, and their pastor stand amazed at God’s loving providence.