Investigation Finds Toms River Strip Mall Fire Caused by Faulty Electrical Equipment

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by Al DellaFave, OCPO

TOMS RIVER-On Monday, July 09, 2018, just after midnight, the Toms River Police and Fire Departments were dispatched to 2114 Route 9 for a report of a commercial structure fire. The location is a strip mall on the northwest corner of Cox Cro Road and Route 9 known as the Ocean National Plaza. The plaza was home to five businesses: Esposito’s Pizza; Azteca Mexican Restaurant and Bakery, Wing Far Chinese Restaurant, Kokomo Nail Spa, and BJ’s Dry Cleaners. Upon their arrival, they found heavy smoke and fire coming from the front of the structures roof system. The fire developed rapidly and spread through the roof system causing damage to the entire plaza.

Once the fire was extinguished, a scene examination and investigation was conducted by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Arson Unit, Ocean County Sheriff’s Department Crime Scene Investigation Unit, Toms River Police Department Detective Bureau, Toms River Township Fire Prevention Bureau and the New Jersey State Fire Marshal’s Office Arson / K-9 Unit to learn the cause and origin of the blaze.

The partnering agencies initially received witness accounts describing suspicious activity in the area of the mall that they felt contributed to the fire. After a thorough scene examination and review of area surveillance video, these witness accounts proved to be inaccurate. The completed investigation has concluded that the origin of the fire was located in the overhang of BJ Cleaners. A malfunction of energized electrical equipment could not be eliminated as the cause leading to the fire being deemed accidental.

The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office in the days since the fire has received countless inquiries from customers of BJ Cleaners requesting info on how to receive compensation for clothing items destroyed in the fire. OCPO investigators have received the following instructions from the owner of BJ’s Cleaners to pass along to these customers:

To our Valued customers,

As you know, fire destroyed the entire building on July 9th, 2018 including BJ’s Cleaners. The cause of the fire was not caused by any negligence by myself or any of my staff. I apologize for any inconvenience and loss that you have suffered.

At the direction of my insurance company, Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Company, they have advised me to gather the following information as quickly as possible. Until Nationwide reviews and decides as to how claims will be handled, they have requested the following:

1. Your Name
2. Your address
3. A contact phone number
4. A list of the articles of clothing with a detailed as possible a description of the same.
5. The approximate value and age of the article.
6. Your laundry ticket
7. If possible, your email address.

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Please forward your response to these questions to:

Please be aware that any action taken by the undersigned should not be construed as a waiver of the rights of BJ’s cleaners nor an admission of liability.

This has been and continues to be a terrible hardship for my family and myself. I appreciate your patience throughout this process.

Thank you for your business and I look forward to rebuilding my store and to serve you in the future.

BJ Pak
And the staff of BJ’s Cleaners