LAKEWOOD, NJ – Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that an investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Squad-Arson Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office, Lakewood Township Police Department Detective Bureau, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit, has determined that the wildland fire which occurred in Lakewood Township and advanced into Brick Township on Sunday, March 14, 2021, was intentionally set.
“We have located the origin of the fire and have concluded that the fire was intentionally set,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.
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On Sunday, March 14, 2021, at approximately 1:15 p.m., the New Jersey Forest Fire Service Observation Tower in Lakewood reported a wildland fire in the area of Cedarbridge Avenue and Airport Road in Lakewood. As the fire quickly spread, firefighters battled through the night – in the face of 20 mile-per-hour winds – in an effort to contain the blaze.
During the course of the fire, a firefighter from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service suffered cardiac arrest. He was transported to Hackensack Meridian Ocean Medical Center in Brick Township where he is reported to be in stable condition. Approximately 167 acres of land were destroyed by the fire, and it was finally deemed under control on Monday, March 15, 2021, by approximately 1:00 p.m.
“The significance of this wildland fire cannot be overstated. We have a firefighter that suffered cardiac arrest while battling this fire. Three homeless people living in the woods were saved from the advancing fire. Numerous residences and commercial properties were damaged and hundreds of people were evacuated. It is only by the grace of God that no one was killed,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.
“This remains an active and ongoing investigation, and anyone with knowledge of information concerning this fire is urged to contact Sergeant Thomas Haskell of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027, extension 3953,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.