Report: New Jersey Boardwalk Fire An Accident

Last week, when a fire destroyed nearly two dozen businesses on the Seaside Heights boardwalk in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie characterized the blaze as having “finished the job [Hurricane] Sandy started.” We thought that was kind of a strange characterization, but it turns out he was probably right.

An investigation into the cause of Thursday’s fire determined that it most likely started by accident, with a spark blowing apart the electrical wiring underneath a Kohr’s Frozen Custard shop. The wiring in that section had been damaged during Sandy’s reign of terror last year, and because that portion of the boardwalk was never repaired, the wiring itself was inaccessible to inspectors before the fire. Investigators suspect that this confluence of unfortunate circumstances caused to the malfunction, though they added that even without the Sandy damage, the spark could have, errr, sparked.

Christie announced yesterday that some funds previously allocated to Sandy relief would be redirected to help rebuild the boardwalk and remove debris from the area. This will come in addition to the $15 million local businesses are set to receive to help them recover from the fire.

"We're moving as swiftly and aggressively as we can to help these communities and their boardwalk businesses rebuild from this unfortunate stumbling block to our overall Sandy recovery," Christie said in a press release. “By alleviating the costs associated with the debris removal process, state, county, and local officials as well as private entities can get down to work immediately to restore one of the Jersey Shore's most iconic boardwalks."

While there aren’t any estimates yet as to the duration or cost of the rebuilding effort, the damage to the boardwalk itself has been pegged at $1.88 million. The investigative team, which included agents from both the New Jersey State Police and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, combed over the damage for 40 hours and will keep an eye on the scene to prevent looting.