By Donald Wittkowski
Ron Schlupp took a look at the scorched remains of his once beautiful beachfront home in Sea Isle City and was unsure whether it could be saved.
An insurance adjuster inspected the fire-damaged house at 91st Street and Pleasure Avenue while Schlupp paced nervously on the sidewalk Friday afternoon.
“There’s a lot of love in that house. That’s what built it,” the 82-year-old Schlupp said wistfully.
Schlupp’s home was the only survivor – although it appears that will be temporary – of a raging fire that broke out around 5:30 a.m. Friday and engulfed three adjacent beachfront houses on Pleasure Avenue between 91st and 92nd streets in Sea Isle’s Townsends Inlet section.
Two duplexes next to Schlupp’s house were destroyed by the blaze. What was left of them has since been demolished, leaving a pile of charred rubble.
Officials from the Cape May County Fire Marshal’s Office, the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office and the Sea Isle Police Department are investigating the cause.
Schlupp said the fire started in the duplex located in the middle of the three homes. Flames spread to the adjoining houses before firefighters from Sea Isle and four neighboring towns extinguished the blaze.
“The duplex in the middle caught on fire and with the winds, the flames just blew and blew and blew,” Schlupp said.
His three-story home was badly scorched, leaving one whole side of it as black as burned toast. Other parts of the house were badly damaged, including the façade, the windows and the roof. Also damaged was Schlupp’s boat, which was parked out front in the driveway.
“It’s a total disaster,” Schlupp said. “Thank God nobody was in the house at the time.”
In an interview Saturday night, he said he is all but certain he will have to demolish the house and build a new one.
“From what I understand, there’s a 90 percent chance it’s going to be condemned and knocked down,” he said.
Authorities said all three homes were unoccupied during the fire. One firefighter was treated for a minor injury at the scene, according to Sea Isle police.
The names of the owners of the two duplexes have not yet been released.
Schlupp, a resident of Churchville, Pa., has owned his beach house since 2000 and uses it as a summer vacation retreat.
“It was the place where the kids and grandkids grew up,” he said. “That was where the family would get together for the summer.”
Schlupp is the retired owner of Schlupp’s Maintenance Co., a Pennsylvania-based building maintenance and janitorial services firm.
He said he was with his family in Churchville when he received a call around 7 a.m. Friday alerting him that his Sea Isle house may have caught fire. He later confirmed it was his home through a Facebook post.
Photos and video posted on social media showed all three homes engulfed in flames as police cars and fire trucks rushed to the scene in the morning darkness.
Now, Schlupp is awaiting final word from the insurance adjuster next week whether there is any chance the house can be saved. At this point, he believes it is a total loss.
“We are going to rebuild it bigger and better,” he said. “We’re blessed, because no one was hurt. A lot of memories have been lost, but we’re going to make new memories now.”