The fire, which destroyed a part of the boardwalk in New Jersey's Seaside Park and Seaside Heights last week, has been found to be an accident caused by faulty electric lines that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy, reports said.
Investigators told the media at a news conference on Tuesday that electrical wiring installed under the boardwalk sustained damages from sand and salt water during the hurricane that lashed the Eastern Seaboard last October, causing Thursday's fire, which began under a frozen custard stand and candy shop, and damaged more than 50 businesses along four blocks. The wiring in that part of the boardwalk is said to have dated back to the 1970s.
"I'm sure on every boardwalk everywhere (at the Jersey shore), there may be compromised wiring," Joseph Coronato, Ocean County prosecutor, told CBSNews, adding that property owners should exercise precaution after Thursday’s fire. "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."
Coronato added that all other possible causes of the fire such as careless smoking and arson had been ruled out because the wiring is not easily accessible to the public.
"Quite honestly, it’s inaccessible," Coronato explained to New York magazine. "You’d have to tear down the entire building to get to the wire so I think that you’re going to have to put some reason to the conclusion here." And, because the wiring had been in place since the 1970s, Coronato believes it "could have failed on its own."
According to reports, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has pledged money from an existing grant earmarked for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts to remove debris from the boardwalk. These funds are in addition to an initial amount of $15 million promised to help local businesses, which were damaged or destroyed in the fire, begin the rebuilding process.
USA Today reported that the damage to the boardwalk alone would cost at least $1.88 million.