A video shot on a cell phone camera capturing the start of the massive blaze that engulfed the iconic New Jersey shore boardwalk may provide investigators with new clues into how the fire started.
The footage shows smoke billowing from a Kohr's Custard Stand at the Funtown Pier on the Seaside Park boardwalk, a stretch of boardwalk that had been damaged but not destroyed during Superstorm Sandy.
Heavy winds gusting at 20 to 30 mph pushed the fire north six blocks into Seaside Heights and a part of the boardwalk that was recently reconstructed after being completely destroyed during the October 2012 storm.
Work crews had only completed repairs to the boardwalk destroyed by storm waters just before Memorial Day and in time for a visit from Prince Harry in May. The fire destroyed a length of boardwalk that was home to approximately 30 businesses, officials said.
Residents said the charred debris is a devastating reminder of what it took to rebuild the shore following the storm.
"Sandy was enough for us," New Jersey resident Cindy Wegeman told ABC News. "Now that we just got done rebuilding, the fire came and took that away, too."
At the height of the blaze, more than 400 firefighters worked quickly to quell the wild flames, breaking through the boardwalk to stop the fire from spreading.
While residents and visitors of the beloved boardwalk said the fire brought back unwanted memories from Sandy's destruction, officials have yet to determine what may have caused the fire.
"How this fire started, we don't know yet and it would be irresponsible for any of us to speculate," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said at a news conference.
The fire is considered "suspicious" and is being investigated by the Ocean County Prosecutors Office, sources told ABC News.
Investigators are suspicious of the fire's origin because it was a midday fire with no bad weather to speak of or obvious cause, there were no injuries, the structure survived the summer season only to burn now, and a huge number of firefighters were not around Thursday because the annual New Jersey Firemen's Convention was kicking off today in Atlantic City, sources told ABC News.
Officials said they were looking into all possibilities for the cause of the fire. While investigators have started to collect evidence from the scene, there are areas of the boardwalk that are still smoldering.
The investigation into the cause of the fire has been taken over by the county prosecutor, which officials said was a routine procedure.
Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's office, said investigators were asking the public to come forward with any videos or photos they might have shot before or during the fire to help them as they try to piece the circumstances together. Individuals can call 732-929-2027 with information.
- Society & Culture
- Superstorm Sandy