LACEY — Southern Ocean County is rallying around Joe Depasquale, the owner Caffrey's Tavern, which went up in flames on Wednesday.

The iconic restaurant that's been in the same location on Route 9 since 1995, posted a simple message on its Facebook on Wednesday afternoon thanking people for their kind wishes.

"No one was harmed in the incident," the message said.

Flames broke out on Wednesday morning and black smoke billowed out of the second-floor windows. The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office is investigating the cause of the fire.

Veronica Laureigh, the township's business administrator, called herself a "frequent flyer" at Caffrey's. She said she and her family have dinner there at least once a week and she was there when the ribbon was cut 23 years ago. She went to the site after hearing about the fire and said she was "just devastated" by what she saw.

"I did not expect to see the devastation. I expected to see some damage but it's gone."

She said some of Caffrey's employees have worked there since the first day and many came to the fire and shed tears as the restaurant went up in smoke.

"They have been a great supporter of the community. The first aid squads, the fire companies, various sporting organizations and the Lacey FoodBank and support the schools with various programs," Laureigh said.

John Morey, the general manager  of the Lacey Applebee's, posted a message on his Facebook page offering jobs to Caffrey's workers.

"To Joe Depasquale, an old high school classmate.. if you need anything.. I mean anything..just ask," Morley wrote.

"My heart is breaking," Judy Bryant wrote on Facebook. "Caff's is our Cheers. And, all of my friends who work there, they'll be without jobs for about a year So sad. Definitely saying some prayers for the firefighters."

Laureigh said she has spoken to the owners and believes they are "overwhelmed" by the fire.

"I think they're in a state of shock like the rest of us," she said.

She said the township would do what it could to help facilitate a rebuild if that's what the owners decide to do.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ