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Last updateWed, 16 Oct 2019 12pm

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Brighton Avenue Blaze Destroys Several Buildings and Business

Brighton Avenue FireA fire blazed throughout Brighton Avenue, Long Branch, N.J. on Monday, February 13, taking out 10 businesses and 14 apartments on the street. The fire began around 10:30 am and was still being hosed down after midnight. It took 11 fire departments and approximately 100 firefighters to contain the fire, according to the Asbury Park Press. There were no reported injuries, aside from a few minor ash burns to some of the firefighters and a cut lip to one.

The businesses affected include West End Dance Academy on 59 Brighton, Sacred Circle New Age Center, Universe Graphics, Shelly’s Jewelry, Heedless, The Wave and East Coast Coin.

 According to Andrew DiChiara, junior and firefighter for West Long Branch Fire Department, the fire was thought to have possibly originated in the basement of the dance studio.

The Wave issued a statement on their Facebook page post-fire. “Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us. We really appreciate all the phone calls, prayers and messages, and we know with the help of all of you we will be back and better than ever.”

Over a dozen residents were left homeless, losing their apartments, possessions and some pets in the fire. The tenants were brought to the Long Branch Senior Center, where they were assisted by Red Cross officials. Some tenants had to be evacuated but many were at work during the fire, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Locals gathered to watch as the fire grew, some crying over the tragedy taking place. With the ocean winds blowing strong, ash was carried across Ocean Avenue causing the roof of Wells Fargo Bank to catch on fire. The firefighters were able to put it out without much damage done to the building.

With multiple fire departments fighting the flames, water sources became an issue at points, explained DiChiara. “There were so many different fire hoses running that we would lose pressure or divert water to another hose,” he said.

Dan Gregory, University alumnus, also works with the West Long Branch Fire Department. He explained, “Each hose puts out 1,000 gallons a minute, with each gallon weighing eight pounds. People don’t realize the hoses themselves do damage to the buildings as well.”

Joe Reale Jr., President of the Long Branch Historical Association, saw this fire as the end of an era. One of the buildings to burn was, according to Reale, the last original building remaining on the West End. The building was so old, in fact, that it didn’t have fireproof walls, he explained.

Angelo Ciaglia, Long Branch Assistant Fire Chief, was quoted in the Asbury Park Press saying the already older condition of the fire damaged buildings was a new problem for firefighters. The charred wood of the 100yearold building is weak and can fall easily. At around 3:20 pm a wall of the historic building collapsed.

Kyle Durso, junior and history major, is a student living in the Diplomat Apartments, which were in close proximity to the fire. “The fire only really affected my commute to class,” explained Durso. “The water pressure was decreased but that was understandable.” Durso trusted in the competence of the police and fire department and was not concerned with his own safety in the Diplomats, but concerned with the safety of those on the scene working to contain the fire.

Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President for Student and Community Services, sent out an email to students in the Diplomats alerting them of the fire taking place. “The smoke was quite heavy and blowing towards the complex and we wanted the students to keep their windows closed. In addition, the water pressure in the area was significantly affected and we wanted to make sure that students knew this so they could plan showers, laundry, etc., appropriately. While I understand that local roads may have also been affected with traffic […] our primary focus centered on communicating with our Diplomat residents.”

Junior and history education major, Vinny Gonzalez, lives a street over from the Diplomats and noticed the flames when he was leaving for his 1:00 pm class. “I thought the Windmill was on fire,” Gonzalez said. “I wasn’t too concerned about my own apartment, but the fact that Wells Fargo caught on fire was scary. I realized the severity of the fire when trying to drive back from class and was constantly running into police blocking off roads. The school should have told everyone because it affected people who live off-campus, and weren’t able to get to school because of the traffic it caused.”

Professor William Gorman, history and anthropology professor at the University as well as a West End resident, was already on campus when the fire broke out. He said, “I think campus did a good job as did the local media in notifying those who would be affected, I noticed no lateness to class because of it and my attendance was pretty normal for the day.” Gorman’s normal two minute commute home took him about 25 minutes due to the traffic and detours. “I hope they are able to rebuild the small businesses and restaurants, as that was one of the most busy and heavily frequented streets in the West End section of Long Branch,” said Gorman.

No serious injuries were suffered by the tenants or firefighters. According to the West Long Branch Fire Department, the cause of the fire is still yet to be determined. The fire was controlled at approximately 7:15 pm, according to the Asbury Park Press.

PHOTO COURTESY of Nick Hodgin

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