Ocean County prosecutor issues safety warning following string of deadly fires

The prosecutor says that his office has investigated six structure fires this year – five of which have turned deadly.

Matt Trapani

Aug 3, 2023, 10:38 PM

Updated 316 days ago


Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer issued a safety warning to the public following a string of deadly fires in the county.
The prosecutor says that his office has investigated six structure fires this year – five of which have turned deadly. Three of these deadly incidents have been in just the last three weeks.
Billhimer says that many of these fires were caused by the “improper discarding of smoking material."
“Fatal, tragic, and heartbreaking. We use these words so often, I’m afraid they’ve begun to lose their meaning. These are not simply words on paper; they are the real-life consequences of routine behavior,” the prosecutor wrote. “Failure to properly extinguish any smoking material may set in motion a series of events that ends a life and causes the loss of your entire world.”
Deputy Ocean County Fire Marshall Zachary Sharp says that many people do not realize how quickly fires can spread. He says that it is important to have working smoke detectors and an exit plan in case of a fire. He also echoed the prosecutor’s message that cigarettes are a common cause of house fires.
“I think it’s just knowledge. People go outside and have a smoke, put it down, continue on with their daily life. They really don’t think about the weather, the receptacle the cigarette was discarded, and unfortunately, tragedy can happen,” Sharp says.
The latest fire the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating killed four people in Lacey Township. The deaths included a 14-year-old girl and a 4-month-old baby.
Officials say that those who smoke should consider only doing so outside. “Most deaths result from fires that started in living rooms, family rooms, dens, or in bedrooms,” officials wrote.
Officials also say that smoking materials should be put out in a sturdy ashtray away from anything that can burn. Cigarettes should also not be discarded in any vegetation like mulch, potted plants or near dried grass or leaves. Smokers should make sure the item is fully extinguished before it is discarded.
“Most fires are totally preventable. Life is precious; please keep these safety tips in mind, and above all - please be careful,” the prosecutor wrote.

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