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Seaside Park boardwalk fire caused by faulty wiring, officials say

September 17, 2013|By Christine Mai-Duc

The massive fire that destroyed several blocks of the beloved Seaside Park boardwalk in New Jersey last week was caused by faulty electrical wiring, officials announced Tuesday.

A task force of investigators that included state and local fire marshals, county prosecutors, and local police made the determination after examining debris, mapping electric currents at the time of the fire, and examining possible financial motives.

“This was not an intentional fire,” Ocean County prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato said.

PHOTOS: From Sandy to boardwalk fire

Investigators determined that the fire began behind a candy shop, below a “very, very old” section on the southern end of the boardwalk.

The wiring there, which investigators believe was installed after 1970, was completely inaccessible and had been submerged in saltwater and sand during Superstorm Sandy, officials said.

It remains unclear whether the wires failed due to their age or storm damage.

Coronato advised property owners who believe their electrical wiring may have been similarly exposed during flooding to have it inspected.

In the meantime, investigators have concluded the criminal investigation.

Seaside Park was devastated by Sandy last year, when the storm flooded its carousel and adjacent Seaside Heights lost its roller coaster.

Many local businesses had raced to rebuild in time to reopen this summer, only to be gutted by the fire.

“Our hearts go out to them, we wish them success in their rebuilding and recovery efforts,” Coronato said Tuesday. “Though our investigative work has concluded, the stricken area and business owners will not be abandoned.”

Gov. Chris Christie over the weekend pledged $15 million in Sandy recovery funds to assist businesses devastated by the fire.

“The entire Seaside community has endured so much over the last year,” Christie said in a statement announcing the funds. “We’re going to be with them every step of the way to help them get back on their feet.”

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Twitter: @cmaiduc

christine.maiduc@latimes.com

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