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Issue Date: Vol. 53, No. 10, October 2013, Posted On: 9/18/2013

Jersey Shore Boardwalk Fire Is Ruled Accident Caused By Electrical Failure; Gov Promises Aid

Hank Schlesinger
TAGS: Jersey boardwalk fire cause, Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, fire accident, Ocean County Prosecutor, Joseph D. Coronato, 1970s-era wiring, Superstorm Sandy damage, Biscayne Candies, Kohr’s Ice Cream

SEASIDE PARK, NJ -- The devastating fire that ripped through several blocks of Seaside Park has officially been ruled an accident. The ruling comes after an exhaustive investigation that include more than a dozen different agencies, including, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office - Arson Unit/Major Crimes, the Ocean County Fire Marshal's Office and the New Jersey State Police.

The fire, which began at the Kohr’s Frozen Custard stand on the boardwalk, claimed an estimated 68 buildings along four blocks. According to Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato, the cause of the fire was 1970s-era wiring that had sustained damage during Superstorm Sandy a year ago. The wiring, which had been submerged in salt water during the storm, had not been inspected following the hurricane. Although the lack of post-Hurricane inspection was seen as inadvisable, Coronato deemed the oversight not criminal in nature.

According to the official findings, the scene examination revealed fire damage consistent with the fire originating under the structure that housed the Biscayne Candies and the Kohr’s Ice Cream stands. The fire investigation team, with the help of electrical engineers, fire analysts, and four accelerant detection dogs eliminated the cause of the fire as suspicious, ruled out any human deliberate or accidental involvement, and eliminated all other heat sources. The fact that the area under the structure is completely inaccessible assisted in the investigative team findings.

"The experience and knowledge of this elite team was truly evident in their concise presentation of findings," Coronato said during a press conference in the main branch of the Ocean County Library on Sept. 18. "Today I'm confidently bringing some sense of closure to this tragic event, affording the many owners of the destroyed and damaged businesses the ability to now take measures to rebuild and recover."

Gov. Chris Christie has pledged some $15 million for businesses damaged by the fire. The money, he explained, will come from funds earmarked for storm repairs. He also stated that the state would allow businesses impacted by the fire to postpone sales tax payments due this month.

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