Beach Club at Historic Amusement Park Burns

Fire destroyed a restaurant and beach club at a 121-year-old amusement park in northwestern Pennsylvania on Thursday.

The ruins at Conneaut Lake Park, about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh, could smolder for a week, Summit fire Chief Gig King said.

The complex that burned contained the Beach Club and Downunder Beach Bar, as well as the Dockside banquet facility next to them. Authorities said the building burned quickly and completely collapsed.

The Beach Club was built in 1936, and the neighboring banquet pavilion recently had been renovated as part of ongoing efforts to revitalize the seasonal park, which didn't open during the summers of 2007 and 2008 because of long-standing financial problems.

The park is now run by a public nonprofit, the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park Inc., though the entertainment complex is leased by a business, Park Restoration LLC. One of the firm's three partners, Joyce Popovich, said weddings and other events had been booked at the banquet facility into next year, and that they'll do whatever they have to do to make those events work.

The park is home to the Blue Streak, one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in America, and has been the focus of a weeklong makeover that is being recorded as part of a possible program for the Travel Channel.

The fire was reported shortly before 2:30 a.m. by a boater. At least nine fire companies responded, and two firefighters suffered minor injuries, officials said. Nobody was in the buildings and no other injuries were reported.
The fire was declared under control about three hours later.

The cause of the blaze, the second major fire at the park in the last five years, remained under investigation.

A 20-year-old man was sentenced to three to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to setting the fire that destroyed the park's 99-year-old Dreamland Ballroom on Feb. 1, 2008. The damage estimate was $1.5 million.

A damage estimate for Thursday's fire wasn't immediately available.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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