By Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger
3/3/17. Ocean Grove, NJ. Fires have been problematic in Ocean Grove since its founding. Over the years, many hotels, boarding houses, and homes have been destroyed in town. The fragile wood structures were vulnerable, and whenever a fire would occur, it would spread so fast that it would light up an entire group or even a block of structures. The construction would allow the flames to accelerate from the basement to the roof in just a few minutes.
In Ocean Grove we have an excellent fire department which has developed skills in dealing with our close quarters conflagrations. But the risks in recent winters have been fearsome and disturbing.
Since 2010, we have had 4 major fires, and three of them have occurred in March. Fortunately there were no deaths or serious injuries.
On Saturday, March 13, 2010, the Manchester Inn on Main Avenue, was destroyed. That fire originated in the Inn and resulted in the destruction of 5 nearby homes as well as serious damage to 2 more, plus the Inn. The Inn was supposed to be converted to condos. It was replaced by single family Victorian style houses.
On Friday, March 11, 2011, the Surf Avenue fire destroyed 2 homes on Surf Ave. and seriously damaged 4 homes on Atlantic Avenue. There was a condo building under construction at the time. It was rebuilt. Our reporting questioned the conclusions of the investigation, but we were frustrated in our efforts to get transparency from the County.*
And now, of course, we have the Friday, March 3, 2017 fire that occurred early this morning.
The one significant fire since 2010 that was not in March occurred on Friday, Feb. 9 was the Main Avenue fire that totaled 50-54 Main Avenue and damaged an adjacent building.
In the first three instances, no suspicious findings were reported by investigators. Usually the fire evaluations are performed by the County Fire Marshall and the County prosecutor’s office.
Our article* in 2011 raised concerns about the trustworthiness of fire investigations in the Grove. Here is a quote from that 10/30/11 BF article with a link to it below.
“It is obvious from recent comments on this website that many people in Ocean Grove have little confidence in the fire investigations conducted by these county offices. So long as public officials keep the facts to themselves, behaving as if they have something to hide, people will naturally be suspicious and distrustful. As they should be.
“If the reason for the seeming laxity of these two investigations is that our fire investigators lack sufficient knowledge of fire chemistry and fire dynamics, then the county should upgrade its standards and give its people more professional training. In the meantime, though, either the county or Neptune Township would do well to engage a skilled team of outside, unbiased professionals to conduct independent, thorough investigations of both those major fires. It’s clear that our own officials lack the will — and perhaps also the ability — to do a credible job. But the public needs answers.”
Now we will probably have a long wait to get results of today’s fire investigation.