TOMS RIVER, N.J. — 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 get their own equipment inspected for similar danger, officials said Tuesday.
The boardwalk fire in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights started Thursday in aged wiring that had been compromised by saltwater 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 Mayor William Akers said there is no issue with potentially compromised wiring on the surviving sections of the boardwalk.
"We did a total rebuild. All 16 blocks got all new wiring," he said.
Investigators said the Seaside fire began in wiring that dated to the 1970s and was 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 arc that is thought to have started the fire.
Coronato said the investigation ruled out all other possible causes of the fire. The wiring was inaccessible to the public, he noted.