Seaside boardwalk fire cause still under investigation

September 15, 2013 8:30:01 PM PDT
Investigators continue to sift through ashes of the Seaside boardwalk, trying to determine the cause of the huge fire that destroyed 50 businesses down the shore.

Governor Chris Christie is promising $15 million from the state for rebuilding.

The fire raced through four blocks blocks of the famous amusement pier, leaving a path of destruction in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights. Now, Christie says the state is planning an aggressive response to help the business owners rebuild the boardwalk and the businesses.

On Sunday, firefighters extinguished a flare-up following Thursday's massive fire.

The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office says the flare-up occurred at about 2:20 a.m. Sunday in a debris pile on the south end of the boardwalk behind a Seaside Park bar. Fire companies from Seaside Park and Seaside Heights extinguished the fire by 3 a.m.

Fire and emergency management officials are monitoring the fire zone until 6 p.m. Monday and will meet then to decide if further monitoring is necessary.

"I'm hoping this is going to be better than Sandy," business owner Lucy Santaro said. "Not like Sandy."

This is not like Superstorm Sandy, a natural disaster caused by mother nature. At this point, investigators don't know what started the blaze, but all business owners want to know is how soon can they re-open for business.

"Time is everything here, you know what I mean?" business owner Bob Stewart said. "Next summer comes before you know it...We had a bad summer this summer. We have to be ready for next summer or we'll have another bad year next year."

Christie spent part of Saturday on the Jersey shore, assuring the path to getting aid would not take as long as it did after Sandy.

"Mixed emotions," business owner Joe Jerabek said. "But overall I thought it was a positive atmosphere, with the governor really giving us a clear direction on where we needed to go and what we needed to do as soon as possible."

Business owners will be eligible for a $50,000 and $5 million in low-interest loans, and the labor department will be in Seaside next week to help the workers who lost their jobs.

"I hope I convinced them, it's part of my reason for being here," Christie said. "But ultimately, they'll be convinced by what we do. And that's always been the test with my administration."

The ATF has 15 people on scene, a combination of structural and electrical engineers, all focusing on the south end of the boardwalk to find a cause.

Investigators will also look at the construction records of those businesses that rebuilt after Sandy to see if there's anything in the reconstruction that may have contributed to the fire.