ATLANTIC CITY — The three-story building fire that left 10 people homeless this week has been ruled as accidental, city Fire Chief Scott Evans said Friday.
Evans said a contributing factor to the fire was a generator on the porch of the second floor.
The Thursday fire, which erupted at the corner of Bartram and Ventnor Avenues in Atlantic City, housed A&B Market on the first floor and two apartments on the upper floors. The market had been closed for health violations on June 27, a city official said.
Dale Finch, director of the city department of licensing and inspections, said Friday a building inspector assessed the building and decided that it’s “not an imminent hazard right now.” He added that it is the owner’s responsibility to repair or demolish the building, but it is not in danger of collapsing.
The owner of the building will contact his own insurance company for an assessment, and the department will put a special assessment on the property to make sure the owner takes action.
“At this point, it’s a safety issue, but it’s not an imminent hazard,” he said.
Tax records indicate the building is owned by Alka and Bhavesh “Bob” Patel and is assessed at $445,700.
Ricky Patel, owner of the A&B Market downstairs, said he was on his way to the store when he received a phone call from a neighbor that the building was on fire. Patel said the store has been in the building for 80 years, and that he has owned it since 2004.
Finch said the health department cited the market owner for violations, and closed the store after finding mold on the ceiling, rodent droppings throughout the store and outdated food on the shelves.
“It was a filthy mess,” he said.
But Patel said Friday afternoon the building had undergone repairs after being closed down in June, and all of the problems in the store had been resolved. The store had a leaking roof and ceiling, along with cleanliness issues, he said, and the store was now “ready to go.”
“It took me weeks to clean up,” he said. “I was sure that I could reopen, once they come in and could see everything I had done.”
While Patel said he was waiting for the city to approve the store for reopening yesterday, Finch said that’s not true. The market owner would have had to have a hearing before getting a final inspection and approval to reopen. Finch said Patel had requested the hearing but it did not yet take place.
Flames ripped through the multi-story apartment building around 9:30 a.m. Thursday. The injured firefighters were released from the hospital Thursday afternoon.
On Friday, the neighborhood seemed back to normal except for the burned building, covered in soot and ash, with some windows broken open and a pile of belongings and rubble on the sidewalk. Ripped caution tape sat on the road across the intersecting streets from the building. The fire was so intense it burned for three hours.
About 60 firefighters battled flames in the 90-degree heat and humidity of the day Thursday, rotating in shifts to break for water, shade and sometimes oxygen. An off-duty resort firefighter is being credited with rescuing a woman and a cat. Fire Chief Scott Evans said the three-alarm fire was brought under control at 12:30 p.m.
Diane Concannon, communications director for the North Jersey Region’s American Red Cross, said the organization had three representatives on the scene Thursday. The organization is providing emergency assistance to the 10 people for lodging, food and clothing.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help one of the families. https://www.gofundme.com/2nw2czg
Evans said the building will be boarded up soon but is still being assessed for damage.