Posts Tagged ‘Ocean Grove fire’

Small apartment fire. Olin AVe. at Pilgrim Pathway in Ocean Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

Small apartment fire, 2016. Olin Ave. at Pilgrim Pathway in Ocean Grove. Paul Goldfinger photo ©  Ocean Grove Fire Dept.  Click to enlarge.


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The lot at 26 Atlantic remains empty. Next to it, Heinz Weck's new yellow and white house is almost complete. To its right, 32 Atlantic has a new roof and other repairs are underway. Behind these, facing Surf Avenue, is the fast-rising new condo development. Photo by Charles Layton

By Yvette Blackman, Contributing Writer @blogfinger

Surf and Atlantic avenues are like almost any other block in Ocean Grove where new homes are going up. For months since the fire last March, residents have been navigating past the inevitable construction trailer or waste container jutting into the narrow streets.

The wind-driven fire destroyed or severely damaged seven homes and an old hotel which was being converted to condos. More than two dozen people were displaced, including renters who had no insurance. Some renters never returned to Surf and Atlantic. Some homeowners — those with roots in the community, some for whom these were second homes — have moved on. Four are in various stages of rebuilding; two are selling.

Here’s a glimpse of where things stand with the properties that suffered the greatest damage:

— At 27 Surf, where the fire started in the basement of the old hotel, the nine-unit condo building is rising fast. Gone is the cottage at No. 25, its tiny footprint swallowed up in the new construction. A chain link fence forms a protective sentry around the four-story building, most of which is framed and covered with sheets of plywood. A row of front windows at the top remains exposed to the elements.

— The empty lot at 31 Surf has a James J. Pentz, Realtors sign that went up October 12. To date, no formal offers have been submitted on the 30-foot-by-64-foot lot, the only south-facing lot for sale just two blocks from the beach, according to realtor Karen Pentz.

— New windows have been installed and framing is under way at 33 Surf, a single-family home wrapped in plywood and Tyvek insulation.

— The two-family house at 32 Atlantic has a new roof, and plywood covers the front windows. The back of the home is wrapped in Tyvek.

— A century 21 “Lot For Sale” sign is posted on the vacant lot at 30 Atlantic. No offers have been submitted since the sign went up about a month after the fire.

— At 28 Atlantic, the two-story yellow house with white trim, owned by Heinz Weck, appears near complete. The interior was fully lit late one night this week, and a ceiling fan was whirring in what appeared to be an empty living room. The front yard is filled with dirt and sand.

— The lot at 26 Atlantic looks like a well-worn path, coated in mud, a few leaves and very little else.

— No. 24 1/2 Atlantic, which a fire marshal’s report said sustained moderate damage, is boarded up with mold growing on the siding.

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Fire rages on Surf Avenue. Friday morning. Photo by John Gallagher of Ocean Grove

FRIDAY, March 11 — Seven houses and an old hotel were destroyed today, and five other houses were damaged in an early-morning fire that apparently started on Surf Avenue and quickly spread to Atlantic Avenue.

Four people were hospitalized with injuries, none serious.

All the destroyed and damaged properties were in the second block from the ocean — between Beach and Central avenues. Police, in a press release, listed the addresses of the buildings destroyed as 27, 31 and 33 Surf Avenue and 24 1/2, 26, 28, 30 and 32 Atlantic Avenue. They said five homes were damaged: 23 1/2, 30, 28 and 35 Surf Avenue and 34 Atlantic Avenue. Five parked vehicles were also damaged, police said.

Steve Mandeville of Ocean Grove, reporting from the scene, said it was his understanding that the fire started in the old hotel at 27 Surf Avenue, which was being converted to condos by developer Hans Kretschman. That uninhabited hotel had been owned, until recently, by Heinz Weck. It had been in poor condition for some time, according to neighbors. People at the fire scene were saying that the fire appeared to have broken out in the basement of that building, but no official cause had been established.

Weck had been living at 28 Atlantic, which he owned and which was destroyed in the fire. Weck told a Red Cross worker that he had lost everything, escaping with only his wallet.

Norman Buckman, who lives at 31 Surf, was taken to the hospital, suffering from smoke inhalation, according to Connie Ogden, who was also at the scene. Buckman’s house was destroyed.

A second resident, Peter Lenihan of 30 Atlantic, also suffered from smoke inhalation, and a fireman sustained a leg injury when a wall collapsed. A second fireman was also reported injured. All of the injured were treated at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

(UPDATE: A neighbor told Blogfinger Saturday morning that both Buckman and Lenihan have been released and are now doing fine. Both of the firemen have also been released.)

Mandeville said the wind was blowing toward Asbury Park during the fire and that firemen were hosing down roofs on the Wesley Grove condos there. Police attributed the fire’s quick spread to wind-driven burning embers.

Mandeville also reported a gas explosion at the scene; he said gas and electricity in the vicinity were shut off.

The Camp Meeting Association opened Grove Hall on Pilgrim Pathway as a center for displaced residents and firemen and relief workers. The Red Cross was using it as a center to interview people in need of housing, food and other services. The Starving Artist restaurant brought in food. The Asbury Park Press quoted Red Cross Regional Director Leo Pratte as saying at least a dozen displaced people might need another place to stay Friday night. Susan Taylor of Ocean Grove said she stopped by Grove Hall to offer help to the people sheltered there and found that “thanks to the leadership there, all was under control and more help [was] rolling in; but we did go home to get men’s/women’s clothing and especially dog food, a leash and a makeshift litter pan and litter for two of the displaced animals.”

Police said the fire was reported shortly before 5:15 AM. Soon thereafter residents of Ocean Grove were awakened by a steady chorus of sirens as fire engines streamed into town. Police said that units responded from Neptune, Neptune City, Bradley Beach, Avon, Allenhurst, Fort Monmouth, Ocean Township and Wall Township, in addition to Ocean Grove.

Neptune Police were asking anyone with information about the fire, including photographs or videos, to contact Police Detective Michael McGhee at 732-988-8000, extension 423. The police are especially interested in hearing from people who witnessed the early stages of the fire.

The fire is under investigation by the Neptune Police, the Neptune Fire Bureau, the Monmouth County Fire Marshall’s office and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office.

This fire was eerily reminiscent of the equally devastating one that broke out almost exactly one year ago on Ocean Pathway. That fire, on March 13, was also a block and a half away from the ocean, and just two blocks south of today’s fire. It also began in an empty hotel at around 5 AM. It destroyed the Manchester Inn and five adjacent homes, and severely damaged two other homes.

Postscript: The Asbury Park Press reports Saturday that officials are saying the cause of the fire was accidental.

— Charles Layton and Mary Walton

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