Boardwalk fire blamed on Sandy-damaged wiring - FOX 35 News Orlando

Superstorm Sandy

Boardwalk fire blamed on Sandy-damaged wiring

Posted: Updated:

WAYNE PARRY | AP

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) -- The massive fire that destroyed part of a Jersey shore boardwalk and dozens of businesses began accidentally in wiring damaged in Superstorm Sandy, and should prompt coastal property owners to inspect their own equipment for similar danger, officials said Tuesday.

The boardwalk fire in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights began accidentally Thursday in aged wiring that had been compromised by salt water and sand during the Oct. 29 storm, federal and county investigators said at a news conference. The wind-whipped blaze destroyed more than 50 businesses in the two towns.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said the fire should be a cautionary tale.

"I'm sure on every boardwalk everywhere (at the Jersey shore), there may be compromised wiring," he said. "We don't want to start a panic mode. We just want to be reasonable. If you're a property owner and you think your electrical work came in contact with water and sand, we strongly recommend you have it inspected."

Seaside Heights officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment about the status of wiring in the surviving two-thirds of the boardwalk.

Investigators said the fire began in wiring that dated to the 1970s and was located under a frozen custard stand and candy shop.

Jessica Gotthold, a senior special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said investigators located wires under the boardwalk that somehow came in contact with each other, causing an electrical arc that is believed to have started the fire. Coronato said those wires had been exposed to the storm surge and grating sand action of the storm, which compromised them.

But as far as why the wires contacted each other, he said, "we will never know."

The prosecutor said the investigation ruled out all other possible causes of the fire, including careless smoking or a deliberate act of arson. The wiring was inaccessible to the public, he noted.

Authorities even pulled financial records of the businesses involved in the blaze to make sure no one had a financial motive to start a fire.

"We left no stone unturned," he said. "This was not a suspicious fire."

It was only by destroying part of the 5-month-old boardwalk that Seaside Heights had just spent $8 million to rebuild that the rest of the walkway was saved. Public works crews ripped out a 25-foot swath of boardwalk to serve as a makeshift fire break, depriving the blaze of fuel. They then filled the void with giant sand piles -- makeshift dunes to hold back fire, not water.

The desperation plan worked and stopped the fire from burning the rest of the boardwalk.

Gov. Chris Christie's administration decided the state will use Sandy-recovery money to pay for debris removal. He also pledged $15 million in Sandy money to help rebuild the burned businesses.

Christie said Tuesday the state will let business affected by the fire postpone filing sales and use tax returns that were due this month until Oct. 21 to help them recover.


  • New Jersey NewsNew Jersey NewsMore>>

  • Savion Glover, the master teacher

    Savion Glover, the master teacher

    Thursday, August 21 2014 5:26 PM EDT2014-08-21 21:26:05 GMT
    While the rest of us merely march to the beat of our own drum, Savion Glover is the drum. The tap dance superstar has dazzled audiences from the small screen to the big screen from the White House to the Great White Way. More than just a legend, Savion has become a curator of tap. He is on a mission to keep the craft sacred for future generations.
    While the rest of us merely march to the beat of our own drum, Savion Glover is the drum. The tap dance superstar has dazzled audiences from the small screen to the big screen from the White House to the Great White Way. More than just a legend, Savion has become a curator of tap. He is on a mission to keep the craft sacred for future generations.
  • Man sucker punched in knockout attack

    Man sucker punched in knockout attack

    Thursday, August 21 2014 4:00 PM EDT2014-08-21 20:00:46 GMT
    The so-called 'knockout game' where a person punches another unsuspecting person has made its way to Hackensack, N.J. Police say an assailant attacked three people on the same day. Surveillance video shows the athletically built suspect punch a man in the face and stroll away. The man fell to the ground. Two other assaults took place within less than 15 minutes.
    The so-called 'knockout game' where a person punches another unsuspecting person has made its way to Hackensack, N.J. Police say an assailant attacked three people on the same day. Surveillance video shows the athletically built suspect punch a man in the face and stroll away. The man fell to the ground. Two other assaults took place within less than 15 minutes.
  • Clark police respond to 22 reports of burglary from autos this morning

    Clark police respond to 22 reports of burglary from autos this morning

    Thursday, August 21 2014 1:25 PM EDT2014-08-21 17:25:08 GMT
    The Clark Police Department has received 22 reports of burglaries of unlocked cars Thursday morning. Reports were received from residents of Hillcrest Drive, Thomas Drive, Grove Street, Orchard Terrace, Briarheath Lane and Stonehenge Terrace. There are no suspects at this time.
    The Clark Police Department has received 22 reports of burglaries of unlocked cars Thursday morning. Reports were received from residents of Hillcrest Drive, Thomas Drive, Grove Street, Orchard Terrace, Briarheath Lane and Stonehenge Terrace. There are no suspects at this time.
Powered by WorldNow

35 Skyline Drive
Lake Mary, FL 32746

Phone: (407) 644-3535
News Tips: (866) 55-FOX35

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices