WEST LONG BRANCH - A fire tore through a strip mall in West Long Branch on Saturday morning.
It started just before 10:30 a.m. at the Carriage Square mall on Route 36 and Monmouth Road. Officials say the fire started inside the Nails Limited store about an hour and a half before it opened. As the flames and smoke started to spread, the neighboring shops were evacuated.
In addition to Nails Limited, Peking Taste and West End Salon suffered the most serious damage. Officials say the other 10 stores in the shopping plaza likely only suffered smoke damage.
Crews from surrounding towns helped quell the flames. An exact cause is not known, but several employees say the heating units are in the ceilings of the stores, which is where the fire started. Several ladder crews were on hand to get at the roof before the flames spread further.
The fire caused some traffic delays, but otherwise the flames were put out quickly.