Seven Manasquan homes that survived Hurricane Sandy succumbed to flames this morning in what Police Chief Elliott Correia said was a "heartbreaking" fire.
No injuries were reported in the fire that gutted three homes on First Avenue, Pompano and beachfront, and damaged nine others.
"The initial report was four homes on fire," Correia said. "It had spread to seven."
In addition to those seven, other neighboring houses faced smoke, heat and water damage. The total number of affected homes reaches one dozen structures, Correia said.
The police chief said 50-75 emergency responders rallied at beachfront and First Avenue homes on the 290 block of Manasquan for about an hour for a fire that will be investigated by Manasquan and Monmouth County Fire Marshals.
"At this point there is no obvious cause to the fire," Correia said. "We'll be looking at whether it was intentional or accidental and making a determination in a full investigation."
The fire engulfed homes that withstood the devastating storm surge of Hurricane Sandy, only to be destroyed by this morning's fire, Correia said.
"This is really unfortunate. My heart goes out to them," said the police chief. "These homeowners survived the storm only to see them destroyed by this."
Correia said the fire began at 290 First Avenue, and also gutted two neighboring homes on First Avenue. Those three homes are severely damaged, and to a lesser extent but also heavily impacted where the two homes that abut the homes on beachfront. Seven homes saw some fire damage.
The police chief said no occupants were affected. "Thank God for that," he said. The lack of wind and the heroic efforts of multiple fire companies helped to save additional properties, he said.
A local resident aided police in evacuating nearby homes as the fire was underway, Correia said.
In addition to Manasquan fire companies and first aid, mutual assistance was provided from Brielle, Sea Girt, Spring Lake Heights and South Wall fire companies.
"They did a great job, especially with the properties so close together," Correia said. "Its’a shame. Luckily the fire stopped there. It could have turned out differently, but this could have been much worse."
The heat and the flames were contained easier thanks to quick emergency response and lack of wind, said the chief "It's another thing that worked in our favor: wind didn’t carry the heat and the flame."
Both gas and electricity had been restored to this Manasquan neighborhood recently, but the utility reconnection will also be investigated to see if it is possibly a cause. No obvious cause to the fire is known at this time, said Correia.
"All the utilities in the area had been certified. Most gas connections had been replaced by New Jersey Natural Gas. The electrical grid has been energized, some of the homes had it some didn't have it" depending on the status of their inspection, said the police chief. "It's another thing that would be investigated."
Correia said the already devastated Manasquan waterfront saw more unfortunate destruction with this fire.
"After everything the homeowners have suffered from the storm...to have survived the storm and then lose it to fire like this... my heart goes out to them."
Original report, 6:30 a.m.:
A structure fire near First Avenue and Pompano in Manasquan may have spread to as many as four homes after 6 a.m. Wednesday, officials said.
Police Chief Elliott Correia said multiple Manasquan fire companies are on the scene of what was described to him as a fully involved working fire affecting four homes near the beachfront.
The firefight is under way with emergency response from Hook & Ladder, Engine 1 and 2 from Manasquan, as well as Manasquan Police and First Aid squad on the scene assisting. Sea Girt and Spring Lake Heights fire companies assisted as well.
At 6:30 a.m. the fire was still blazing, using multiple hose lines to attack the structure fires.
"At 6 a.m. I received a phone call," Correia said. "Manasquan police initially responded," as the fire companies arrived to the firefight.
It was unclear at this time what may have caused the fire or if there were any occupants. Further details will be posted shortly for this ongoing story.