Cops: Toms River Strip Mall Fire Accidental

Photo courtesy Toms River Fire Company 1 and Toms River Fire Company 2 Facebook Pages

TOMS RIVER – The fire on at the strip mall on the corner of Cox Cro Road and Route 9 has been deemed accidental by investigators.

The fire broke out just after midnight on July 9, police said. When police arrived, they saw heavy smoke and fire coming out of the roof, which quickly spread to the entire building.

Witnesses told investigators that they saw suspicious activity in the area, according to a release from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. However, after examining the scene and viewing surveillance video, these witness accounts were proven inaccurate. The scene was investigated by the prosecutor’s office’s 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.

Courtesy Ocean County Sheriff

The location, at 2114 Route 9, is named Ocean National Plaza and was home to Esposito’s Pizza; Azteca Mexican Restaurant and Bakery, Wing Far Chinese Restaurant, Kokomo Nail Spa, and BJ’s Dry Cleaners.  

It was determined that the fire started in the overhang of the cleaners, police said. A malfunction of electrical equipment there is the most likely cause.

Many people have contacted the Prosecutor’s Office about clothes destroyed in the fire, so the office passed on a letter from the cleaners:

  “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.

  “Please forward your response to these questions to: BJPAK1234@gmail.com.

  “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.”

  This letter was signed by BJ Pak and the staff of BJ’s Cleaners.

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Chris Lundy is News Editor at Micromedia. He has covered Ocean County news and features in various publications since 2003. Lundy worked for Gannett with articles in The Beacon, Observer and Asbury Park Press. He's also written for the Community Connection, Patch and ShoreBeat.