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Seaside's boardwalk businesses are too big to fail

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It's hard to talk about the damage caused by the Seaside boardwalk fire without sounding melodramatic. After all, no lives were lost, no homes were destroyed — and if we've learned anything from Hurricane Sandy, it's that you can't put a price on these things.

So if the only thing we have to be devastated about is the loss of the place where we made memories — an afternoon spent at Funtown, an evening at Beachcomber — we are lucky.

Still, there's no mistaking that the mid-September fire was a disaster, and the owners of those businesses that are now ashes are not so lucky. And if the Shore is truly going to mount some kind of a recovery — again — it will need the kind of rapid response from the state that the area enjoyed after the hurricane struck.

Fortunately, so far, that seems to be the case.

The Department of Banking and Insurance hit the ground just days after the blaze was out, assessing the conditions and meeting with business owners to hear some of their complaints. And Chris Christie announced a generous grant and loan program that, coupled with the business' insurance, should make rebuilding simpler. Businesses affected by the fire could be eligible for grants of up to $50,000 or no-interest loans of $5 million that wouldn't have to be repaid for two years.

This is hugely important to a community that's absorbed two body blows in less than a year, and we applaud Christie and his team for marshaling an immediate, compassionate response to a business community that suffered one of its worst years on the coast.

For New Jersey, the Shore is literally too big to fail. Tourism is the state's biggest industry, and the Shore is its top-selling product. Even a group of New Yorkers filming a show about their sad lives — from long days in a T-shirt shop to nights of binge drinking and mornings convincing themselves that this is how they should be spending their 20s — did nothing to ruin Seaside's appeal as a tourism magnet.

Now, the photo of a burning Funtown Pier can live on as the national icon alongside the aquatic roller coaster from Sandy. Hopefully, if the Christie team keeps its support on Seaside, it can be a memory of what might have been without quick action — and not a tombstone for this critical seaside resort.

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