Sea Isle City fire ruled accidental amid questions about response times

SEA ISLE, N.J. (WPVI) -- Sunday's fire at a Sea Isle City, N.J. marina has been ruled accidental by investigators, having started in a storage shed by an equipment malfunction.

One day later, Two Chums Bait and Tackle was open for business. But one of their commercial fishing boats was severely damaged.

"We're working on getting the one running today. The other one is going to take a while," said Carmen Conti, owner of Two Chums Bait and Tackle.

This fire is one of several in Sea Isle City this year that has residents asking: is it time to switch from a volunteer department to a paid one?

After a fire last month, folks showed up at a recent city council meeting asking about the fires and response times.

"I don't think that a paid crew would've necessarily been there any faster," said Police Chief Tom McQuillen, who also oversees public safety for Sea Isle City.

He says within three minutes of getting the call, a fire truck was rolling out to the scene of Sunday's fire, followed by others. But witnesses say it took longer than that.

The Chief says between 25 and 30 volunteers staff the department and says their response times are impressive.

"I understand that everyone wants to get a paid crew but my informed opinion at this point is - we're not there yet," said McQuillen.

McQuillen does say that during this busy tourist season, many people stop to take pictures, video, and just to watch the operation, which can slow things down.

Carol Nicastro was helped out of her home by officers during the blaze and sent to the hospital for carbon monoxide exposure. She praised the first responders for their work.

"I'm happy with what they did for me yesterday. I really am," said Nicastro.

Chief McQuillen says none of the fires this year have been criminal in nature.

He also says for each big fire they do a review of the operation and look at what could be done differently.

They'll be doing that for Sunday's fire later this week.
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