The fire in Seaside Park that destroyed dozens of businesses along a four-block stretch of boardwalk was accidental, and investigators say they're "confident" that failure of live electrical wiring under the boardwalk - compromised by Sandy flood waters - led to the fire, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato.
Coronato discussed the findings at a press conference held Tuesday.
He said the Fire Investigation Task Force arrived at its conclusions "after reviewing pre- and post-scene photos and videos, interviewing business owners, examining financial motives, analyzing fire scene debris and mechanicals, and using arc mapping of the point of origin."
By focusing on the point of origin, Coronato said, investigators focused under the northeast quadrant of the structure that housed Biscayne Candies and Kohr's frozen custard stand.
Coronato and other county officials said the wiring, which was installed sometime after 1970, "became subject to salt and sand and wave action," during Sandy.
"It's clear that this wire and these receptacles were coming in contact with water and sand," he said, adding that there could be other spots of compromised wiring along Jersey Shore boardwalks.
While Coronato said investigators "may never know" if the fire was caused by old wiring or Sandy, he encouraged business and property owners to be cautious. "if you think think your electrical work came in contact with water and sand, we strongly recommend you have electrical contractors go out and make sure it's safe," he said.
He said that this wiring had not been inspected, because it was not accessible. The portion of the wiring that was in question was serviced by Biscayne.
Coronato said "our hearts go out to" the business owners, and commended the Fire Investigation Team who have worked since Thursday.
The Thursday afternoon fire destroyed businesses between the Seadside Park and Seaside Heights, including two popular bars and what was left of Funtown Pier after Hurricane Sandy left it heavily damaged last year.