Uncooperative witnesses stymie Lakewood, NJ wildfire arson case
LAKEWOOD — The investigation into who set a wildfire along the Garden State Parkway in March is at an impasse because of uncooperative witnesses.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer. said the fire was intentionally set but has not disclosed details about how the fire started or a motive for starting it.
He said on Monday that investigators have reached an impasse because nearly five dozen potential witnesses will not speak.
"Detectives have attempted to interview approximately 60 potential witnesses and reviewed video recordings from cameras in proximity to the fire," Billhimer said in a written statement. "The vast majority of these potential witnesses have been less than cooperative with our investigation, and as such, we are currently at an impasse at this point in time."
The wind-whipped fire burned 167 acres and while no one died from the fire, dozens of homes were put at risk.
Firefighter Brian Sauers collapsed and nearly died while fighting the fire and a homeless couple lost their shelter.
The Forest Fire Service said the area had not had a fire in 40 years, leaving plenty of thick growth to fuel the fire.
A commercial building on Airport Road was “totally destroyed” by the fire while another was significantly damaged, according to Lakewood fire Chief John Yahr.
The news angers Brian Sauers Jr., whose father is recovering from surgery after collapsing near the Lowe's store in Brick.
"In my opinion, it's an obstruction of justice. It's extremely frustrating especially since we haven't really heard anything about what's been really going on with the investigation. We've been letting them do their job. It just pisses me off," Sauers Jr. told New Jersey 101.5.
Sauers Jr. said his father is working on increasing his strength and is on track to be nearly back to normal two months after heart surgery.
"We're getting really, really close to that two-months mark. I'm just looking forward to him being the same pain in the ass again," Sauers Jr. said.
Billhimer asked anyone with information regarding the wildfire to contact his office at 732- 929-2027, extension 3953.