The fire that destroyed six blocks of boardwalk and damaged as many as 30 businesses in two New Jersey shore towns was the result of wires damaged during flooding from last year’s Superstorm Sandy, the official who led a probe of the blaze said Tuesday.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato blamed the fire, which broke out last Thursday, on an electrical problem beneath the boardwalk in Seaside Park. The fire burned its way north to neighboring Seaside Heights from its starting point beneath a frozen custard stand and a candy shop.
“The only possible heat source present is the failure of energized electrical wiring,” Coronato said at a news conference.
“During the storm, this wiring and these connections became fully submerged in saltwater and subject to wave and sand action,” he added.
The air in Seaside Park remained acrid Tuesday. Gawkers strolled along a chain-link fence put up to keep onlookers out of the damaged area.
The investigation into whether the fire was a result of any criminal activity was over, Coronato said. “The fire investigation team ... eliminated all possible competent heat sources, including improperly discarded smoking materials, any human involvement and eliminated all other heat sources,” he said.
Investigators interviewed business owners and witnesses to examine any possible financial motives for starting a fire, Coronato said.
They came away convinced that the electrical issue caused the blaze.
Superstorm Sandy devastated the New Jersey coast. The state estimated its damage at $37 billion.