After Seaside fire, other towns worried about Sandy-damaged wiring

People check damage from the Seaside Park fire, believed to have been started by wiring damaged by Sandy.
People check damage from the Seaside Park fire, believed to have been started by wiring damaged by Sandy. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 20, 2013

The fire that devastated four blocks of the boardwalk in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights last week, which officials say was caused by electrical wiring likely damaged by Hurricane Sandy, had other Shore towns concerned Wednesday.

Atlantic City's top fire official said that while the city had inspected buildings along its boardwalk in the storm's immediate aftermath, "after this fire in Seaside, we're thinking of doing another round of those [public-service announcements]."

Chief Dennis J. Brooks said: "We went out and inspected most of the buildings because things like this can happen when electrical wires come in contact with salt water. . . . Seaside is proof of that."

Ocean County law enforcement officials on Tuesday said criminal activity was ruled out as a cause of the blaze, which raged for nine hours last Thursday and destroyed as many as 60 businesses.

Officials said it was not immediately clear which entity - the municipality, a power company, or individual property owners - could be liable for the failed electrical equipment that ran under the boardwalk and floor beneath Kohr's Frozen Custard and Biscayne Candies where investigators said the fire started.

Most boardwalks along the New Jersey Shore, including those in Seaside Park, Seaside Heights, Atlantic City, Ocean City, and Wildwood, are publicly owned infrastructures, similar to streets and roads that are maintained by municipalities.

Brooks said it's best for municipalities to stay proactive in dealing with such issues.

In Atlantic City, he said, fire-code officials went along the gambling resort's four-mile-long Boardwalk after Sandy to inspect both public infrastructure and private properties to determine whether flooding and sand kicked up by the Oct. 29, 2012, megastorm had corroded electrical wiring, plumbing, and other critical systems within the structures.

Where issues were found with lines or conduits, old equipment was replaced, and in some cases, upgraded to current standards, he said.

Inspections similar to those made in Atlantic City were also performed after Sandy by fire authorities in other Shore boardwalk communities, including Ocean City and Wildwood, according to officials in those municipalities.

Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers said in his municipality - where much of the boardwalk and many of the stores and amusements upon it were washed to sea by Sandy - all the utilities and wiring were replaced when the wooden walkway was rebuilt five months ago.

Contact Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or Read the Downashore blog at Follow on Twitter @JacquelineUrgo.

Inquirer staff writer Maddie Hanna contributed to this article.

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