Fire destroys property, displaces families in Ventnor | Local News

VENTNOR — A fire broke out on the 5200 block of Ventnor Avenue over the weekend, causing several nearby businesses to be evacuated, destroying a property and displacing multiple households.

The Ventnor City Fire Department received a dispatch call at 5:29 p.m. Saturday about the blaze.

The fire impacted a mixed-use property that housed a storefront and several residential properties above, Ventnor Deputy Fire Chief Brady Middlesworth said Monday. The U-Mango storefront was enveloped in heavy smoke and flames while wind gusts intensified the fire spread. Three households living at the property were displaced by the fire, with Middlesworth saying that all three had either been relocated to shelter provided by family or the Red Cross. There were no injuries reported.

The nearby restaurants were evacuated by staff and law enforcement soon after the fire began.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Middlesworth said Monday.

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By Monday afternoon, ash and debris were still cordoned off in the street. The U-Mango storefront had burned down entirely, with the Sack O’ Subs store adjacent to it appearing to take fire damage. 

Angelo Sochocky, a manager at Mr. Gordo’s on the same block as the fire, said a hostess alerted him to the fire. He began to evacuate staff and customers when he saw law enforcement arrive at Sack O’ Subs next door, before law enforcement began instructing the building to evacuate shortly after.

A similar dynamic unfolded at Nucky’s Kitchen & Speakeasy, which was directly adjacent to the fire. Manager Dylan Cruz said Monday that a waitress told him about the fire. He said he began to help evacuate the restaurant and the adjoining Ventnor Square Theatre when law enforcement came and ordered everyone out. Cruz said it was a shame to see the building damaged, as it had just recently been restored. He called it a “gem in Ventnor” and expressed concern for the people displaced.

“I felt terrible for the apartment, for everything,” said Cruz, who estimated the evacuation lasted about three hours.

Ventnor Fire Capt. Patrick Lento led the response with the department’s Fire Platoon No. 2. The Atlantic City and Margate City fire departments were also on the scene to respond, while the Brigantine and Pleasantville fire departments helped take over duty covering the area as the fire in Ventnor was ongoing.

Middlesworth said that Ventnor Fire Chief Michael Cahill responded to the scene and called a third-alarm fire.

Cruz, Sochocky, as well as Ventnor Square Theatre Manager Rosary Lamalfa, all said that officials had inspected the property and that there was no apparent damage to their business places. Lamalfa added that law enforcement had to work to keep people off the property, with one party trying to enter the theater-restaurant complex even after it was apparent the area was being shut down for a fire.

Sylas Smith, 14, said he lives in a property nearby where the fire was, and heard somebody shout about a fire a little before 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Smith said his father called on the phone for the fire department and first responders, while he ran to try to alert other restaurants of the emergency. He said he went and tried to ensure the area was evacuated and that first responders eventually closed off the street. Smith said he was fortunate that the wind was blowing in the other direction away from the home where he and his father were staying.

Jonathan Diego, an Egg Harbor Township resident who works in Pleasantville, was passing by the fire Monday. He said that he knew somebody who used to work at Sack o’ Subs and lived in an apartment above the store and that it was a shame to see a neighborhood in Ventnor that had recently been renovated take damage. Reflecting on the mixed-use nature of the property, Diego expressed special concern for the effect the fire had on residents.

“It’s unfortunate, you don’t like to see this,” Diego said.

Lucky Galluccio, a Ventnor resident who owns Hollywood’s Barber & Hairstyling shop in Atlantic City, said he was said to see the block take damage.

“I’m glad that nobody got hurt,” Galluccio added, talking about the prospects of future rejuvenation projects to the destroyed area. “Let’s hope that better days are coming.”

Contact Chris Doyle

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