Authorities continue to investigate the massive structure fire that broke out in a two-story brick building in downtown Toms River shortly before midnight Thursday.
After police and fire units arrived at East Coast Gamers on Robbins Street following a burglar alarm activation at 11:18 p.m., they noticed faint smoke near the front door, according to Ralph Stocco, the township’s community affairs officer.
“Within minutes, smoke and flames began to billow from the front and rear of the structure,” Stocco said, who added that East Coast Gamers had hosted a gaming tournament Thursday evening and closed at 10 p.m.
The fire then raged for hours before crews brought it under control at 3:11 a.m., according to Stocco.
Nearby downtown streets were closed to accommodate fire apparatus, and firefighters drafted water from the Toms River to help contain the blaze, Jersey Shore Hurricane News reported during its real-time coverage of the blaze.
Numerous businesses and a charity that occupied space within the building were damaged, including East Coast Gamers, Absolute Bail Bonds, Capone’s Gourmet Pizza & Pasta, and Hometown Heroes, a non-profit charity, according to an Asbury Park Press report.
Stocco told the newspaper that the building “looks like a total loss.”
“We lost everything in the fire last night,” a posting on the Hometown Heroes Facebook page said. “As we begin the rebuilding process, we need your donations now more than ever.”
Another building, containing Aqua Bail Bonds, National Heritage Agency, and EHM Homes, was damaged “but not to the extent of the brick building,” the newspaper report said.
Fire departments from Toms River #1 and #2, East Dover, Silverton, Pleasant Plains, Island Heights, Beachwood, Manitou Park, Bayville, Pinewald Pioneer, Manchester, Seaside Heights, and Forked River responded to the incident, Stocco said.
No injuries were reported, he added.
Toms River Police Detective Thomas DiMichele and Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Detective John Doran are conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the blaze, according to Stocco. They are assisted by Toms River Bureau of Fire Prevention Investigator Kevin Esposito and the Ocean County Fire Marshall’s office.