It's still unclear who owns the wiring that sparked the blaze and why it was not replaced after superstorm Sandy
SEASIDE PARK, N.J. -- It has been 2½ weeks since a sudden fire tore through five blocks of the boardwalk here, and no one will say who owns the failed electrical wire that caused the blaze.
And borough officials have not yet produced inspection reports to show whether the orphan wires were inspected after Superstorm Sandy, a week after the Asbury Park Press requested those documents through the Open Public Records Act.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in a radio broadcast last week that the borough was responsible for inspecting wiring after Superstorm Sandy. He also said on New Jersey 101.5 FM that "right near the site of the fire, there was a 16-foot easement that was given to the municipality by the private property owner."
Seaside Park Mayor Robert Matthies and Borough Administrator Bob Martucci upheld Christie's words, but said they did not know that wiring existed. While they agree that the borough was responsible for the inspections, they also said no inspection can begin until a property owner seeks a permit.
"I expect whatever inspections were required were made," Matthies said.
The Asbury Park Press requested records of electrical inspections of Biscayne Candies and other businesses along the boardwalk that caught fire, but borough officials said they were still not available for review. The electrical inspector could not be reached for comment. The owner of Biscayne Candies also could not be reached for comment.
The fire started because of the failure of energized electrical equipment and wiring under the boardwalk and a subfloor of a building that housed Kohr's Frozen Custard and Biscayne Candies, Ocean County prosecutor Joseph Coronato told reporters on Sept. 17.
It still is unclear who owns the wiring that sparked the blaze and why it was not replaced after Sandy struck last October.
Martucci said electric meters were pulled out boroughwide after Sandy, and every homeowner and business had to undergo certain steps to gain power back. That included arranging for an on-site inspection with the borough, which was required to obtain the cut card that gave Jersey Central Power & Light the OK to put in a new meter and enable electricity to flow again, he said.
The borough inspector cannot begin inspection work until a property owner completes a permit, Martucci said.
Matthies said it was made clear after Sandy that those who had not had an inspection after flooding should arrange one.
"If I felt there was a question of damage to any of my systems in my own home, electric, gas or whatever, I would contact a licensed contractor to inspect it," he said.
Coronato delivered a similar message during his news conference on the fire's cause. The prosecutor said the wiring, which was inaccessible below the boardwalk, serviced Biscayne Candies.
Jersey Central Power & Light concluded that it does not own the wiring.
The borough owns only the boardwalk there, though Matthies said it has long had an easement, granted by property owners, for a strip of land below it from the Sawmill Cafe to just south of the former Carousel Arcade building.
Borough officials expect to look more into the details of the fire, but for now, Martucci said they will wait to review the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office report detailing the investigation's findings.
"You couldn't have had more experts up there," he said of the boardwalk.