The man who owns Kohr's Frozen Custard, Inc. says his store wasn't even operating when the boardwalk fire started in Seaside Park on Thursday afternoon.
"The walk-ins [large refrigerators] were cleaned out, the breakers were off, the store was de-energized," Kohr said. He said they were essentially cleaning up and putting the store to sleep for the winter.
Kohr's sits near the site where the fire is believed to have started around 2:20 p.m. According to the first call for help, witnesses said it began under the boardwalk. It spread quickly through four blocks of businesses in Seaside Park and neighboring Seaside Heights, Ocean County, New Jersey.
Kohr said he was at a local hardware store about 20 minutes away when a manager back at the custard shop alerted him that he smelled smoke. Kohr says he left his shopping cart and raced toward the store. When he got to the bridge between Toms River and the barrier island where Seaside Park is located, Kohr said he could see the smoke
"This is so unreal," said Kohr. His business is one of at least 30 that were destroyed or damaged by the fire.
Kohr, who grew up greeting customers at the counter, said the frozen custard shop was "not my second home, it was my first home." He says his heart goes out to all the neighboring business owners and customers.
Kohr said Thursday morning that he had not been interviewed by investigators and had not heard from any officials.
The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office is asking anyone with pictures or video to please contact them. With the help of federal investigators, a local task force is investigating the boardwalk fire. They're hoping pictures and video will help them determine where and how the fire started.
Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor, said investigators especially want to see who was congregating in the area right before the fire began.