Chris Christie Discusses Massive Boardwalk Fire Officials Call 'Suspicious'

New Jersey governor discusses efforts taken to contain demoralizing fire in Sandy-stricken area.
26:29 | 09/13/13

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Transcript for Chris Christie Discusses Massive Boardwalk Fire Officials Call 'Suspicious'
This is a special room. Report from ABC news. I'm -- Cutler -- New York -- this ABC news digital special report a massive fire broke out on new Jersey's iconic boardwalk just newly repaired. From last year's super storm sandy and the governor of New Jersey Chris Christie is about to update on the efforts. Let's listen -- -- rapidly and it's written quickly. Because of high winds. Today the fire is 95%. Contained. And the good news is that there were only several minor injuries sustained. At approximately 11 o'clock last night. The fire pars on the ground brought this fire under control. After putting up a stand that they can and -- avenues. It was a result of hours of hard work. Tearing apart the boardwalk. And ultimately prevent the fire from spreading even -- The damage extends from Lincoln -- Stockton. About a four block radius of the boardwalk. Businesses have been destroyed. But the damage has been contained. To commercial properties only. Only exception. Was a fire started a roof of a condominium complex. That was very quickly put out. What today the most important part of the job is done and that is the containment of the fire is not finished. The team on the ground is tackling. This one step at a time. To ensure that this site is secure and state. Today's -- focus solely on putting out the smoldering that is taking place in small pockets along the boardwalk -- that may continue for days. As these buildings collapse. It sometimes hide what they call hot pockets underneath the debris and -- that debris begins to remove. -- -- those hotspots can -- so for the next numbered days we're gonna have to be. Vigilant on that. To slow and deliberate process as a result. The objective is to ensure that no one is put in harm's way and that -- methodically put out these smoldering pockets. -- the job for today. Part of the process the folks on the ground are working side by side with the fire investigation team to ensure that evidence is preserved. At that point I know there are lot of questions. About how this fire started. We don't know yet and it would be irresponsible for any of us to speculate. We need to let the fire investigation team do their -- This team is being headed by the ocean county prosecutor's office. They -- lead investigative agency. Working in conjunction with -- security fire Marshal. Your security sheriff. The state police arson bomb unit. The new Jersey state fire Marshall. And it -- the -- prosecutor's office. And the federal bureau of alcohol tobacco firearms. The investigation will likely take days at which point the -- can then be turned over to the property owners. -- -- more work to do and decisions to be made. To that and I've directed the commissioners of the Department of Community affairs. Banking and insurance. Environmental protection. And the Chief Executive Officer -- economic development authority. That people from their departments on the scene this weekend. To assist businesses. And local officials. On the beginning of the task of demolition. Removal. And rebuilding. We haven't toured in become a comeback from the devastation of sandy. We will not let these fires destroy those efforts. -- New Jersey. We'll stand with the local governments and the business owners to restart the rebuilding. As soon as possible. Yesterday. As a step before the rover 400 firefighters and seaside. Today. There are still nearly a hundred firefighters -- on site doing what needs to be done. Yesterday there were nearly seventy fire engines on the ground. Coming from ocean Monmouth Burlington. -- may union. Mercer and Atlantic counties. Police officers -- seaside park seaside heights Toms River Berkeley and Manchester were here as well. New Jersey State Police is on the ground and air support was provided by the state. Of new Jersey's forest firefighters. The New Jersey EMS task force was here. And heavy equipment support was given by ocean county. Union County -- over the Neptune system a state of the art -- delivery system that drew lots of water from the bay. -- five to 6000 gallons a minute. That was very helpful in the containment of the fire. So to all the men and women so we're behind me. We're here on the ground last night. Behalf of the people of New Jersey I say thank you. Yesterday we saw what it means to be from our state. We are tough and we stand together. In a crisis. The firefighters police officers. He empties. The volunteers who showed up with coffee and food to help the feed those. Who were fighting the fires. I want to thank you to. You want to get showed -- resilient community seaside park in seaside heights are. You came to help those who were helping you. And you -- your toughness. And I appreciate seeing that again. We honor courage and the service of those people who bought the fire last night. -- students hesitate. When the call went out throughout the entire state step up and help. -- New Jersey it's called New Jersey -- they don't think twice they come to help. So it means to be from our state. Which -- why no fellow who lost the place. That -- provided generations of memories. To our citizens. We will rebuild. We'll make new memories for our families. -- -- that's what we do. So we stand ready as state and New Jersey to assist in every way possible. And available to take a few questions. Well -- as -- said yesterday. -- when I first was advised that what was going on I was -- a actually in -- weekly -- rebuilding meeting with members of the -- rebuilding team. When I got past the information about the fire. And I answered to my staff aren't really talking and -- -- -- -- how much more are people going to be expected to take and it's an emotional told that it puts -- every. The people who live here the business owners the local officials and those what's the state -- -- dedicated most of our lives. Over the last ten months to the rebuilding of the Jersey Shore. So you know I was -- his last night by another reporter it -- the emotional pole and it takes an emotional told the -- that went home. You know I -- I went to sleep for a few hours and I don't have the luxury of getting tired. Is the job the people gave me to do it I'm here to do it and so. You feel it and then you have to just dismiss it because we have no choice you have to rebuild this place. Again -- -- speculate and there's no nothing no import that should be drawn. From the identities of -- investigators or the number this is typical. Brandy fire we have fire up another part of the state over Labor Day weekend same type of -- so that you should not read anything into that. And we honestly had no idea. This video it's -- -- it's 44 hours since the fire started. We have spent most of our time and all of our resources in stopping the fire. And now we turn it over return -- scene over -- it it's always treated as a crime scene. -- we don't know what happened. So we're preserve evidence -- -- the -- -- prosecutor's office -- the investigation with the others we spoke about. And when they've got something to say they'll be ready to say it but we don't have any reason. To know anything about why it started. Now we understand that. They were riding one of the higher vehicle higher. Vehicles. And that. For some reason they fell out of those vehicles. And as the states of head injuries. David take -- to a trauma unit and as soon as we have more information on that we'll share that with you. But. -- two of them three. From what I've told so far sustained head injuries. I don't know anything beyond what I just told. -- you know we're we're still looking through that because -- you know. Here in the seaside park section of this the buildings were very small and very close together. The current -- we have is thirty. -- that -- there might be more as we go through it. But that's the current estimate. Well listen you know -- We obviously spent a lot of time on the -- town -- and we saw that -- -- the ground last night and finish the job that sandy started unfortunately. And there's lots of businesses -- -- along this areas that are are destroyed three Brothers pizza and others that you know. I frequent and so. You know I feel for the folks. Whose businesses were destroyed and there's no doubt -- -- -- in my remarks that. Places where decades of memories were built for families have been destroyed. Our job now. What's the investigation is complete. Is to move aggressively into this area. Take down the buildings that need to be taken down to remove them and begin at -- -- we can to assist the business owners to rebuild. Com and that's what we'll do so. You know. There's got to be focuses directly will be for what was lost. And now we acknowledge that with sadness but on the other hand we have an obligation now. To get aggressive and rebuild and I will not permit. All the work that we've done over the last ten months to be diminished or destroyed by what happened last night. We're gonna get back our -- do we need to do. Well -- -- it was the decisive. There was the decisive moment I. I believe from what I saw last night -- -- here on the -- that was being done. And from what I've been briefed on by fire officials. Is that that was the decisive moment that's where we decided to put all our resources and make our stand. If it had gotten -- -- in Lincoln avenue. There's no telling where it would stop. And so you know that's the ingenuity and the bravery. Of the fire. Fighters in the -- say they took a beating there. They took a beating their physically. Fighting that fire back at Lincoln avenue what they held at all. And I they deserve great credit for that and it was the decisive moment of last night the decision to make the cut there. And to put all of the resource as you know we're letting things burned down here. If you were here you saw it. We -- made the decision to move all of the resource is up to Lincoln avenue and try to stop it right there. The folks here who make that decision. Deserve great credit. And it was the decisive moment in. Limiting the damage to the four block radius that is limited to now we -- we about a lost at all. -- we don't we have no idea I mean. Members of their aggressive part by hesitant to coming here this morning and doing another briefing. There's lots of appropriate questions you -- to start timely. You know will eventually be able to assess that well right now we're still trying to figure exactly how many buildings. And keep the 95% containment get a 200%. So first things first -- -- -- for you on on economic loss and all the rest that's why have cabinet members like banking insurance coming down here tomorrow. To be in the work -- business owners and insurance companies. To get things moving and I've directed the commissioner community affairs. To work aggressively with both mayors. To work over code problems that ordinance problems I want these things that are in danger to the community because -- it's a severely damaged. Take -- down as quickly as possible after the investigation is completed. And -- begin working aggressively with the business owners for -- rebuilding plan that includes working with insurance companies. We're -- coverage is involved and also working with economic development authority. For grants or loans that'll be necessary to rebuild these businesses once we get at that stage which I hope will be next week. That will be able to give you some more information on that. It's gone. -- And I -- thirty is an approximation. We're still now because -- be able to get too close enough. There were focused on putting the fire -- So. You know the businesses that were impacted. I think most of them have been destroyed. And so. You know whether the village of -- completely or they've been completely -- it. That with the damage from the fire will be able to see we going to expect but first -- -- different business perspective the first. Priority. Is to let the criminal investigators go in there and arson inspectors and do their work to make sure we can. Determine as best we can what the cause of the fire was once we get Philip -- They will turn over the crime scene. The property owners and the local officials and state officials and then -- move -- to assess the economic impact. And how we begin to take those buildings down. And rebuild. -- not a 100% rebuild. And that's the fire raged burger -- -- control. You know -- -- -- to work program and we took brought the Neptune system up and other systems to pull out of the back. But all of these infrastructure systems are gonna take time to rebuild. To a hundred -- capacity. We had significant capacity -- -- -- water system but we also had a fire that was being fed by thirty mile an hour winds out of the south. And so the folks are on the ground appropriate made the decision to use every -- that we were drawing water at a swimming pools. -- motels as well because the only way to fight this is to drench it was water. And so. We did what was necessary to do and and it worked. Oh I thought -- but my comments well what I'm talking about it rebuilding. I don't think you could draw any conclusions personally don't know what the cause of violence. Second we don't know what the accelerant was except for two things that we do know that nothing to do Coates thirty mile an hour winds and heart groups. So you and those things both of those things contributed. Mightily. The spread of the fire was talking about -- to talk about rebuilding. Might do not want red tape. And bureaucracy. At the local level. To slow down or -- Rebuilding. Demolition and removal and rebuilding. And so what I've directed the commissioner -- -- to do is to work with both mayors provides whatever state resources are necessary. To expedite. Demolition where appropriate and removal. And then rebuild sucked -- by -- -- now I'm I'm not out of public it's what I just soldier looking into it I'm not looking into that that's a local responsibility. Not not a -- -- -- arson investigator. Now not an arson investigator -- talk them about what my responsibility is which is what resources do you need. To -- control the fire and then to do an appropriate investigation afterwards. I've put every every ounce of state police. Resource in the -- area at their disposal in their here in the working. And you know the state fire Marshall. Contributed to the call last night of bringing every resource from all those counties -- -- -- at seventy engines in the span of hours. Compared it to stop it but. Job market looking at video -- in my opinion prosecutor I've learned stick to your knitting. They'll do think you -- I think about. Well I don't know about that -- we'll have to look at that over time by the White House reached out today to speak to me. Haven't yet had a chance to speak to the president. But I'm sure it will. -- and but I think what we're going to be doing here is is primarily in predominantly dealing with insurance. Into the insurance companies making sure that they step up. The appropriate way that's -- -- the commissioner banking insurance coming here tomorrow. To immediately begin to deal -- business owners about -- insurers are. What their policies look like. So that we can bring those insurers -- table and make sure that whatever appropriate settlements need to be paid can be expedited so that we can get on -- The demolition and removal and rebuilding of the site. An and obviously the other resource the federal government does bring affirmatively as I mentioned before. It is the federal bureau of alcohol tobacco firearms were on scene as part of the investigation team and bring in the expertise that they bring to the table and targeting US attorney for seven years that -- TF -- not they have significant expertise in this area that they'll be contributing to the ocean county prosecutor's office. To help make sure that we get to the bottom of the caused this fire -- that's possible. All right well thank you everybody for coming out this morning I appreciate it. Will continue. Who work. -- -- local officials have with the business owners will be here over the weekend to make sure that business owners and members of the local government have the resources they need from the state government to begin to plan how we respond to this tragedy. And a -- and I'll say is this. I want to -- governors Cuomo and Malloy. Who both reached out to me last night. To offer any assistance that New York to Connecticut's could offer. -- our partners in in the this devastation -- sandy and I both of them we're just incredulous that the fact that this could happen so quickly it happened here. So effect Governor Cuomo governor Malloy both. Prayer offers of help we'll certainly take him up on -- we need it right now I think New Jersey has the situation under control. Lieutenant governor and I'll be working over the weekend with a cabinet members to make sure that the local officials. And the business owners. Have every resource they need that's appropriate at this time. To be able to assess the damage and then get on with the rebuilding. Of this area the boardwalk. Spector over much. New Jersey governor Chris secrecy briefing reporters on the latest on that massive fire at seaside park in Jersey that consume. The boardwalk there that was recently rebuilt after super storms sandy had destroyed it last year. That governor say that right now the fire is about 95%. -- about a hundred firefighters are still on the scene there and that has been reduced from a string of 400. Firefighters. That had responded -- just from last night there. And you're taking a look at a live shot of that devastation there the boardwalk in businesses that were destroyed from this fire. Right now the governor is saying essentially that they are -- hot spots that might still be flaring up but again. The majority of that fire 95%. Has been under containment and he was very quick to point out that investigation has started. And we also know that investigators have just got on the scene and have done a preliminary work. To gather evidence. And information that the governor saying on -- -- quote we honestly have no idea on a cause. He did follow up with saying that always always these fires are treated as a crime scene simply because they don't rule out. Any possibilities. I want to bring in ABC's you've made us who is at seaside park in GOI know like a lot of businesses a lot of structures have been shut down our people able to get back into that area now. You know people are walking around there they're going to their homes and lots and homes as you can imagine nearby they're going there and police are restricting them. In that area but of course if there anywhere near this they're not gonna get to it and then -- it's just completely destroyed. The governor said some thirty buildings were impacted. He believes that most of them have been -- Please register I want to ask a little bit about the cause in -- -- -- the governor was trying to shoot this down very quickly and refusing to answer any kind of questions about speculating for cause. What have you been hearing and they -- in a very concentrated effort to to to have come up with only one voice and not fire investigators. Where the office of the governor or even seaside park coming out with any kind of conflicting messages -- information. Listen they're very they're being very very careful here but sources tell ABC news that this fire is now being treated. As suspicious. That is what sources are telling our. Josh Markel and that's one of our investigative reporters -- ABC news so we're we're trying to figure out exactly what's going on of that but. Clearly the investigation. Of this fire. Is very typical they they treated as a crime scene. And they get out here these investigators get out here they want to preserve as much evidence as possible to figure out exactly what happened. Up but now of course sources telling ABC news that this fire is being treated as. Suspicious and we are looking at these pictures and it is truly heartbreaking to see this in the community. Still coming back from that massive storm last year and the governor in fact even saying that he was in a meeting yesterday. About the sandy recovery efforts when he got word about this fire. But you I want I want to know from the firefighters in the people that you. I have talked to that might have been witnessed in this describe the intensity of that fire because the pictures almost unimaginable. Let's of the firefighters said that they felt like they were fighting up. They it was -- to fight this fire that's what they were telling us this morning. It was just that bad some sustained a few minor injuries when they were fighting the blaze. But this thing just really took hold because we're talking about thirty mile per hour winds right they. When this started -- -- acts at the fun town -- Those thirty mile per hour winds were just pushing that fire along along that boardwalk and it just lit up like a match. And there was I know we've got a 400 firefighters that was the -- that were on the scene there. What -- -- from any responding other states today come to the assistance. It that there were there were firefighters they came from all over a man and we heard the governor talk about. Coming from from all over the county I did hear that some firefighters actually came from two hours away. So it's it's it's amazing the response that happened here last night just to control this blaze because it was so intense. And the thing is that we can we keep hearing about the fact that that recovery effort had been ongoing and there had been such progress made on that -- what that was put in place. The governor. Hussein himself yesterday in the repeating again from that news conference that essentially he said he wanted to vomit. After learning about this just because of the raw emotion. That is so tied to that area. And I imagine with everyone interest speaking with today is got to be an a sentiment that's being very closely echoed. There are people here who said they were crying all night when they were watching that plays -- -- can you imagine. We saw that destruction during -- -- sandy. We -- that roller coaster out of the water right it was so massive what happened here and and this they were rebuilding and even in May as early as may Governor Christie was touring this area with Prince Harry. To show how they've been able to rebuild this area and -- now this now this devastating fire. Just has really destroyed so much more a lot of the buildings that survived superstore and sandy now completely destroy what. Do we know -- those injuries that were involved in that fire last night. Not a whole lot and just that. Just that they were very minor injuries in fact they were very careful to say that as though they were very very minor. One maybe two firefighters were. It is one of the blessings unfortunately. That is -- far -- few for that area that has spent to such a difficult time just in the past year. GO -- is seaside park you thank you for that. Of course have a complete report on abcnews.com. As firefighters are trying to completely extinguish that fire 95% contained. -- the Jersey Shore an area that has been hard hit. Certainly on its way back but the motto that has been adopted is -- strong and certainly that will be something that they will be living up to. In the coming days for now I'm -- that's our New York with his ABC news digital special report. This has been a special report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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